IndyCar: Scott Dixon leads Ganassi front row sweep in Iowa qualifying

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As we mentioned earlier this week, Andretti Autosport has won five of the seven Verizon IndyCar Series races at Iowa Speedway. But the only other IndyCar team that’s won at Iowa will lead the field to green tomorrow night in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Chip Ganassi Racing, which won back-to-back Iowa races in 2008 (Dan Wheldon) and 2009 (Dario Franchitti), swept the front row in tonight’s qualifying session on the 7/8-mile oval.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon’s two-lap average of 186.256 miles per hour was enough to knock off Target teammate Tony Kanaan’s average of 185.891 mph.

Dixon was able to take advantage of some advice from Kanaan and mutual teammate Ryan Briscoe, who both took their own qualifying runs before him.

“Both TK and Ryan went before us out there, and they thought the track had a bit of understeer,” Dixon said to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast. “So we were able to make some wing changes on the car – obviously, to get it to turn a little bit better. And it worked out perfectly for us.

“But you never really know sometimes how your car’s gonna be compared to theirs, and putting more front wing in – sitting in a qualifying line, it’s not always something you want to hear because it just makes the car looser. But it was definitely the right call.”

As for Kanaan, he hopes to rebound from a bitter disappointment one week ago at Pocono. The Brazilian led a race-high 78 laps, but was unable to make late fuel strategy work for him.

“We haven’t delivered yet, so tomorrow will be the opportunity to redeem what happened last week,” said Kanaan, who continues to search for his first win as a member of the Ganassi camp.

Current series championship co-leader Helio Castroneves will start on the inside of Row 2 thanks to his average of 185.789 mph.

His second lap of 186.809 mph was fast enough to set a single-lap qualifying record for Iowa, but his first lap of 184.575 mph was what kept him from the pole.

Briscoe posted an average of 185.339 mph and will start to Castroneves’ outside on Row 2. Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz (185.027) and KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais (184.968) make up Row 3, while Charlie Kimball (Ganassi; 184.743) and Marco Andretti (Andretti; 184.726) will be in Row 4.

Will Power, who shares the championship lead with Penske teammate Castroneves, was first to take a qualifying run and he settled for ninth on the grid (184.683). He’ll be in Row 5 along with Ed Carpenter (184.589).

Other notables include: Simon Pagenaud in 11th, Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in 13th, defending Iowa champion James Hinchcliffe in 14th, and last week’s winner at Pocono, Juan Pablo Montoya, in 19th.

Rookie driver Jack Hawksworth, returning to action after not racing at Pocono due to a myocardial contusion sustained in a practice crash, qualified 20th.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT IOWA – IOWA CORN INDY 300
Qualifying Results

1. Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy, 186.256 mph
2. Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy, 185.891
3. Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 185.685
4. Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, 185.339
5. Carlos Munoz, Andretti-Honda, 185.027
6. Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, 184.968
7. Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, 184.743
8. Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, 184.726
9. Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 184.683
10. Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 184.589
11. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt-Honda, 184.380
12. Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt-Honda, 184.316
13. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, 183.747
14. James Hinchcliffe, Andreti-Honda, 183.348
15. Graham Rahal, Rahal-Honda, 183.201
16. Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, 183.089
17. Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, 183.083
18. Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 182.455
19. Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy, 182.317
20. Jack Hawksworth, Herta-Honda, 181.243
21. Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, 180.987
22. Carlos Huertas, Coyne-Honda, 177.849

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.