BALTIMORE (AP) — After the pit road commotion at Sonoma, Scott Dixon still sent a congratulatory text to winner Will Power.
Yes, Dixon’s penalty wiped out his shot at a victory, but he was at least going to be a good sport.
“I respect Will. He’s a fantastic driver,” Dixon said. “We’re going to be competing, hopefully, together for a lot of years.”
That competition, for now, means they can’t seem to get away from each other on the track.
Power spun Dixon in Saturday’s practice. But Dixon got the final payback when he swiped the pole from Power on the last lap of qualifying to take the top spot for the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Dixon’s second pole of the season won’t erase Sonoma — but it puts him in prime position to win his fourth race of the season and slice into Helio Castroneves’ points lead.
Power starts on the front row for the sixth time this season.
“I’m still pretty happy to be on the front row,” he said. “I’m the only Chevy guy here, so I’m waving the flag for them. Hopefully, we can wave it real high tomorrow.”
Power was the one celebrating last week at Sonoma. Dixon was on his way to victory in wine country when he received a drive-through penalty with 15 laps to go for clipping a tire in the left hand of a member of Power’s crew. The incident occurred when Dixon’s Honda left his pit directly behind Power’s Chevrolet.
Dixon was angry after finishing 15th, claiming the pit crew member intentionally got in his way. IndyCar responded by instituting new rules Friday that defined where pit crews should stand during the race.
Dixon backed the changes.
“Some teams are pushing the mark,” he said. “We saw that play out. Defined pit boxes makes it easier for race control to make more methodical calls. Hopefully, they’ll string things out a little longer to review things. That’s been my beef with them, ever since Milwaukee, they make off-the-cuff decisions and they get back and are like, `Wow, if we had to do that again, we wouldn’t have done that.’ Well, that doesn’t help anybody.”
IndyCar added “courtesy zones” to the outside edges of each pit box to aid in monitoring pit stop conduct. The courtesy zones are defined by 45-degree dotted lines as part of the painted pit boxes.
In addition, IndyCar added rule 7.9.17, which reinforces its pit stop code of conduct: Any participant who, in the opinion of the officials, positions a car, equipment, and/or personnel so as to create a hazard or disruption of the event or to interfere with the activities of another competitor may be penalized.
“I think IndyCar are doing their best to make some changes,” Dixon said. “I think the whole pit road thing had got a little relaxed. We didn’t even have pit boxes marked. There was a lot of things that needed addressing. We obviously didn’t like what happened, but I think it will make for better calls on pit road in the future.”
Power had won the Baltimore pole each of the last two seasons and won the race in 2011. He was on his way toward a third until Dixon turned a lap of 1 minute, 18.0838 seconds on the rugged 2.04-mile road course.
“Maybe there will be a lot of mayhem, hopefully behind me tomorrow,” Power said.
Power and Dixon became entangled earlier in the day during practice. But Dixon said he knew that was an accident and there were no hard feelings.
Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden and Tristan Vautier round out the top six for the course that winds through the city streets. Castroneves, who has a 39-point lead over Dixon, starts seventh.
Newgarden didn’t get to race Baltimore last year because he was injured the week before in Sonoma.
He did approve of the curve placed on the course, the man-made bumps designed to make the drivers slow down on the temporary street circuit.
“I just barreled in there,” he said. “I didn’t even care what part I’m hitting. I liked it. I know some people dislike it. It’s difficult with the railroad tracks around here. You obviously had to do something to slow the cars down.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)