IndyCar: Ganassi team has better qualifying in search of second straight win

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Poised to play spoilers and perhaps, in Scott Dixon’s case, sneak into championship contention, the Chip Ganassi Racing team enjoyed a banner qualifying day while prior practice pacesetters Andretti Autosport struggled at The Milwaukee Mile.

Team Penske has two of the top three spots on the grid for Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but Ganassi has three of the top six. Interestingly, only Dixon in 11th starts outside that top half-dozen.

Tony Kanaan nearly captured the pole but for a lift in Turns 1 and 2, that was enough to send his Huggies-backed No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to second on the grid.

“I tried to go flat through 1-2 and got greedy; it was about Tony Kanaan being too greedy,” Kanaan said post-qualifying, while dropping a rare mention of himself in the third person.

“I had to try it. I’d be bragging if I did. Not a bad qualifying. We should be top five.”

Kanaan is, and on the strength of leading 325 laps in the last two oval races at Iowa (247) and Pocono (78), is primed to capture his first win of the year on Sunday.

“We’re no different than Iowa, so that tells you where we’re at. But we’ll still need a clean day,” Kanaan said.

“We did some long runs this afternoon. Pretty pleased. We have a good car, but it means nothing actually. We didn’t lead the right laps at Iowa.”

The NTT Data and Novo Nordisk-backed entries of Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball qualified fourth and sixth, respectively. Briscoe is a prior Milwaukee race winner and polesitter, but Kimball had never qualified better than 18th in three prior Milwaukee starts.

“On Lap 1 in first practice I was pretty fast, then we made some changes and lost it. So then we were conservative and went back to that,” Briscoe said. “It was the safe thing to do.

“I squeezed 90 percent out of it. To go from a 22.9 (second lap) last session to 21.6 is a big jump.”

Added Kimball, who estimated he’d got 90-95 percent out of the car, “We got pretty close. There’s still some things I learned. I had a good convo with Dario, and he was pretty solid around here. He taught me how to approach this place mentally. I had to carry that advise and experience. I got 90-95 percent of it today. More for me to learn. We’ll do better tomorrow.”

Oddly it’s Dixon, in 11th, who went out last and by all rights could have snatched the pole from Will Power, but wasn’t able to hit the balance. But considering he started dead last, 22nd, and won last race at Mid-Ohio, starting from half that distance should make things a bit simpler.

For the team, which hadn’t won all season until Dixon last race, it now has an excellent shot at two-in-a-row.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”