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Scott Dixon qualifies 13th for Pocono race

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 18, 2018

Scott Dixon waits in his pit box before a practice session for Sunday’s IndyCar series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Long Pond, Pa. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
Scott Dixon waits in his pit box before a practice session for Sunday’s IndyCar series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Long Pond, Pa. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
By Dan Gelston Associated Press

LONG POND, Pa. – Scott Dixon has been about flawless as he chases his fifth IndyCar championship.

He hit a minor bump at Pocono.

Days after signing a contract extension with Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon had one of his worst qualifying performances of the season. He starts 13th on Sunday, well behind his closest championship contenders.

Dixon holds a 46-point lead over 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi in the standings. Rossi, Josef Newgarden and Will Power all have Dixon in sight with four races left in the IndyCar season.

“I need him to have a bad run and I need to have a good run,” Power said.

Power will begin his bid for a third straight win at Pocono Raceway from the pole. He turned a lap of 219.511 mph on Saturday to take the top spot and perhaps bolster his shot for a second championship.

Power won his 53rd pole and tied A.J. Foyt for second on the career list.

Power and Newgarden made it a 1-2 start for team owner Roger Penske.

“One, two for Team Penske. You can’t be mad about that,” Newgarden said.

Rossi starts third for Sunday’s 500-mile race.

Newgarden, the defending series champion, trails Dixon by 60 points in the standings. Power is 87 points back in fourth place.

Dixon isn’t in any major trouble – though he’s a bit more at risk early at getting collected in a wreck in front of him – and starting in the middle of the pack hasn’t hindered him much this season. He started 17th and finished fourth at Phoenix and started 18th and finished second at the Grand Prix.

“The car bottomed out somewhat there in the first lap, so I’m not sure what happened,” Dixon said. “It is what it is though and the car feels comfortable. It’s a long race tomorrow and we’ll have to deal with traffic and try and get to the front.”

The New Zealand native has 44 victories, trailing only Foyt and Mario Andretti on the career wins list.

Here are other items of note from Pocono:

Pole position

Power said it was “cool” to match Foyt. Andretti leads the way with 67 career poles.

“It is possible to reach that,” Power said.

Alo, it’s me again

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will leave the series at the end of the season, and a move to IndyCar remains on the table. Alonso finished 29th in his only IndyCar race in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He’ll likely test in a car before the end of the season.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Developments. “Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

Power, the 2018 Indy 500 champion, said IndyCar would welcome Alonso.

“I think it would be great for the series,” Power said. “It would be fantastic if he came. Everyone in the series is happy to see him come because it’s good for the series. He has a huge following.”

Alonso could have some championship company if he races at Indy in ‘19. Tony Stewart, the retired three-time NASCAR Cup champion, is considering a return to the Indianapolis 500 next year.

“Maybe Roger (Penske) will run one for him. That would be awesome for Tony Stewart to do it,” Power said.

Power said IndyCar has never been better since he entered the series.

“It’s full of good guys now,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve seen as far as driving talent and depth.”

New addition

Santino Ferrucci will drive the final two races of the season for Dale Coyne Racing.

Welcome back

Pocono said IndyCar will return next season on a one-year renewal. The date has not been announced, though another August race seems likely.

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