IndyCar: Hunter-Reay snatches pole from Dixon at Sonoma; Rossi qualifies sixth and O’Ward ends up fifth

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Scott Dixon appeared to have the pole, and the crucial championship point that comes along with it, locked up for Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Dixon had a quick time of 1:17.7599 and, with the checkered flag out, was on his way back to the pits. The other drivers in the Firestone Fast Six (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Patricio O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, and Marco Andretti) appeared to have nothing for him.

However, Hunter-Reay, the last man on track, was able to steal the pole away on his final lap with a time of 1:17.6277, over one tenth of a second clear of Dixon.

More critically, Hunter-Reay took the aforementioned point away from Dixon, meaning Dixon’s lead over Rossi remains at 29 points entering Sunday’s race.

“We’ve been in the Fast Six here quite a few times. It’s nice to get the pole,” Hunter-Reay quipped in the post-qualifying press conference.

Hunter-Reay also added that even though teammate Alexander Rossi is fighting for a championship, his own focus will not be on helping Rossi, but rather on taking the race win himself.

“Big focus on trying to win this thing tomorrow,” Hunter-Reay asserted. “We finished second and third here in the past. We would love to get that big bottle of red wine, whatever it is. I believe it’s red wine. That’s the ultimate goal for us right now. We’ll be concentrating on that.”

Dixon, meanwhile, admitted that he made a mistake on the track, in Turns 9 and 9a, that ultimately cost him the pole. However, his confidence level remains high ahead of Sunday’s race.

“Huge driver error there. Just needed to get through a right and left, and it would have been looking pretty decent,” Dixon revealed. “The car felt good. Huge credit to the team. They’ve done a good job. I think between Portland and here, we came with a pretty different car. It rolled off really well.”

Dixon will start second, while Newgarden qualified third. Andretti enjoyed one of his best qualifying efforts of the year to qualify fourth, and O’Ward continued to shine on his debut weekend – he’ll start fifth after making the Firestone Fast Six.

Rossi brought up the rear of the Fast Six group and will start sixth.

Alexander Rossi qualified sixth, but saved a set of Firestone alternate reds for Sunday’s Race. Photo: IndyCar

Qualifying, and the Fast Six in particular, was an intriguing display of tire strategy. Most notably, Rossi opted to stay on the Firestone primary blacks in the Fast Six, rather than use a set of the alternate reds.

He explained afterward that he and the No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Andretti Autosport team wanted to try something different, and it backfired.

“I think we made good steps forward from yesterday and this morning to be pretty competitive this afternoon. We tried something a little different in hopes it would pay off. We did the Firestone blacks for the Fast Six. But at the end of the day it clearly is probably not the right decision,” Rossi detailed.

Will Power, tied with Newgarden in the standings – both are still mathematically alive at 87 points back – just missed the Fast Six and will start seventh. His Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud qualified right behind him in eighth. Graham Rahal, Zach Veach, Sebastien Bourdais, and Takuma Sato also missed the Fast Six after advancing out of Round 1.

Other notables include Ed Jones (14th), James Hinchcliffe (15th), Tony Kanaan (16th), and Colton Herta (19th).

Results are below. Sunday’s race, the season finale for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, rolls off 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Christopher Bell wins third straight Chili Bowl

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Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 55-lap A-Feature to win the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Bell is only the second driver in event history to win three consecutive Golden Drillers, joining Kevin Swindell who holds the record with four.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to win the Chili Bowl,” Bell said at ChiliBowl.com. “To do it three straight times is just unbelievable, but man, I don’t even care about three straight. What about that race? I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of a last lap race like that, so I’m just glad that thing came out in the end.”

As the white flag waved on his eighth appearance in Saturday’s main event, it seemed Larson was finally going to walk away with his first Golden Driller. This was closest he’s been to the win.

Larson took the lead from Logan Seavey on Lap 21 after a five-lap hot pursuit. Bell moved into second for the first time on Lap 27 but a caution forced him back to third as the field realigned to the last completed lap.

On Lap 33, Bell passed Seavey again for second before another caution reset the field. On the next restart Bell road the rim diving to the hub in Turns 3 and 4. With Larson in sight, Bell started to think about where he was going to put his third trophy.

The final caution flag of the night waved with 20 to go to set up the Bell vs. Larson shootout fans had been waiting for since Larson retired early from the race last year. Larson pulled away on the highline in Turns 1 and 2. He switched to the low in 3 and 4.

With five laps to go Larson hit traffic. That gave Bell the opportunity to close the gap. With two to go Bell was on top of Larson and challenging for the lead. On the final lap Bell passed Larson in Turn 2 as they bumped tires. Glued together through the final pair of turns, they touched twice more before Bell pulled away on the final stretch.

The action wasn’t over, however. Bell wound up on his lid following the win. His donuts got a little out of control and he rolled his midget.

Justin Grant took third by passing Brady Bacon on Lap 36. Bacon followed for fourth with Zach Daum in tow to complete the top five.

Tyler Courtney was the hard charger of the night finishing sixth after starting in 22nd. Brad Sweet and CJ Leary finished seventh and eighth.

Seavey was able to hold onto third until late in the race but ultimately the pole sitter who led the first 20 laps faded to ninth.

Tanner Thorson rounded out the top ten.

Friday’s Main Event

1. Christopher Bell
2. Kyle Larson
3. Justin Grant
4. Brady Bacon
5. Zach Daum
6. Tyler Courtney
7. Brad Sweet
8. CJ Leary
9. Logan Seavey
10. Tanner Thorson
11. Danny Stratton
12. Jonathan Beason
13. Tucker Klaasmeyer
14. Colby Copeland
15. Rico Abreu
16. Michael Faccinto
17. Chad Boat
18. David Gravel
19. Cole Bodine
20. Robert Dalby
21. Jake Neuman
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Shane Golobic
24. Sean McClelland