Ganassi falls short in bid to stop Penske pole streak


The Verizon P1 Award should probably be rechristened the “Penske P1 Deathgrip Award,” at least until someone ends the team’s current pole position streak, which stands at eight races after Will Power’s latest triumph Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Penske’s only obstacle Friday during qualifying for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis at IMS was Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Firestone Fast Six saw the field whittled down to all four Penske drivers and the Ganassi duo of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Dixon hasn’t had a pole since Iowa last year, and Kanaan last started P1 at Richmond International Raceway in 2008.

Neither driver snapped those stretches.

Dixon qualified second to Power with a time of 1:09.7156, while Power earned his 38th career pole.

“We tried to get tricky in Q2 on used reds (tires),” Dixon said. “Didn’t get the start of laps together. We needed another tenth (of a second). I think we just got past the start/finish line by 0.13, so we just made the start of that lap. Definitely a nail biting situation. Unfortunately it bit us.”

Any team would be biting its nails were it in a prime position to end Penske’s front row dominance that stretches back six races to Auto Club Speedway in 2014. In this case, Ganassi did.

“(Power) converted and made it through. (The) car is generally pretty good,” said Dixon, who was fastest in the second practice session on Thursday. “Don’t think we had enough for pole. Power did a really good job. Wasn’t too clean on getting all my laps together.”

Kanaan finished with a fastest time of 1:10.2772 and will start sixth Saturday, behind Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, the defending race winner.

“We started the weekend with big problems. We finally got it together,” said Kanaan, who thanked Dixon for sharing his setup with Kanaan’s No. 10 Chevrolet team. “We finally put his setup on. We started the weekend a bit behind already.

Kanaan is pleased to be starting sixth after being 21st at one point in the qualifying session.

“We saw what happened in Barber,” Kanaan said. “People saved tires. It will be hard. I knew when I made to the Fast Six I wasn’t going anywhere. Those (Penske) guys were in another level. We have another night before tomorrow.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”