Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon will start from pole for the Indycar Series race in Motegi, Japan.
The defending Indycar Series champion, the final qualifier of the session, suck past KV Racing's Mario Moraes to claim the single bonus point for pole. “It's only one,” said Dixon afterwards. “But it definitely helps. It's also good for the ego coming into the race, maybe confidence over some of the others.”
The man he needs the point to beat, points leader Ryan Briscoe qualified fourth, behind Dixon's Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti.
Briscoe's points lead (25 points over Franchitti, 33 over Dixon) leaves the Ganassi pair needing good finishes, or misfortune to befall the Australian, in order to still have a chance to overhaul him for the championship at next months Homestead season finale.
However, while those fighting for the title will start the race at the front the tail of the field will also hold interest.
Starting 21st and 23rd of the 23 car field will be Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.
Castroneves, who lies a distant fourth in title race, 167 points behind Briscoe (thank to missing the opening race, and a recent string of poor finishes) will take the green flag 21st having crashed in turn four during his qualifying attempt, which is calculated using an average speed over four flying laps. Andretti Green driver Kanaan, however, completed his four laps and was due to line up 14th, but found his car failing technical inspection, and so will start last, alone on the final row of the grid.
Splitting the two established big names will be one of the native favourites at Indycar's only fly-away race (after the series cut the Surfers' Paradise event in Australia after only one year), Hideki Mutoh. Mutoh, who had been the fastest of the four Andretti Green cars in practice also crashed during his qualifying attempt, this time at turn 3, and was visably limping away from his car after the accident. Fortunately x-rays on the Tokyo man's feet showed no injuries, and he has been cleared to race.
Joining Mutoh, the only Japanese Indycar regular, are Kosuke Matsuura, and Japanese-American (he lists his hometown as Los Angeles) Roger Yasukawa. Indycar veteran Matsuura, who has no run competitively in Indycar since 2007 will start 16th in a car prepared by Conquest Racing, who have also entered Alex Tagliani and Darren Manning this season, while Yasukawa will start one row behind him in his Dreyer & Reinbold car.
The race, on the 1.5mile at the Twin Ring complex will be the penultimate race of the Indycar season, and promises to be another exciting race, with the new measures introduced earlier this year to improve the racing, having provided a thrilling finish to the previous race at Chicagoland, where most of the field was covered by only 1.5 seconds.