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Dixon tops Friday practice at Indy

Scott Dixon, Indianapolis, 2008The rain has had its say on the preparation for pole qualifying for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Now it's time for the drivers and machines to have their say.

Working on as little as 12 hours of practice after Friday's session was washed out halfway through, top teams will take their shot at the first 11 positions for the May 25 when qualifying begins Saturday at noon ET.

The big prize, of course, is the pole position and the $100,000 that goes with it, and that appears to be firmly in the grasp of three familiar teams - Andretti Green Racing, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske.

Among the favourites from that list are Helio Castroneves, who won the pole last year; Tony Kanaan, who won the pole in 2005; Scott Dixon, who had the fastest lap during Friday's session; and Marco Andretti, who has been at or near the top of the timesheets throughout the rain-shortened week.

Their choice Saturday - especially with the additional entries provided by unification - will be whether to make a serious run at the pole or lie back and accept another spot on the first, second or third row of the grid.

"You're going to know early on whether you're in the range to go for the pole," Dixon said. "There's no point in throwing the thing into the wall trying to get pole. I don't think it makes much difference if you're on the first row or the fourth row."

Dixon's best lap Friday - 226.968 mph - in the No. 9 Ganassi Honda/Dallara was just slightly better than Andretti, Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, who has been fast throughout the week in the No. 6 Penske Honda/Dallara.

Others showing speed during Friday's three hours of track time included Dan Wheldon, Vitor Meira, Danica Patrick, Tomas Scheckter and Castroneves.

"We're in good shape for tomorrow," Castroneves said. "I'm not concerned with the other drivers' speeds today because a lot of them were getting tows. It will be interesting to see who has what."

Wheldon took the opposite approach of his Ganassi teammate, indicating he'll put it on the line to win the pole. "Everybody worked hard to get good race cars and fast race cars in order to get us up front," Wheldon said.

"We'd be letting those guys down if we didn't really go for it. We definitely feel we have a car capable of the pole."

Two drivers who aren't among the AGR/Ganassi/Penske stronghold - Vitor Meira and Tomas Scheckter - appear to have an outside shot at the pole. Meira has been fast during the limited practice time this week, notching the seventh-quickest lap overall in the No. 4T Panther Racing Honda/Dallara.

"I know we're going to be quick tomorrow," Meira said. "I don't know where we'll end up because there are a lot of fast cars out here, but we feel like we can get in the show."

Two incidents marred Friday's session. Alex Lloyd hit the wall and remained hospitalized late Friday with a possible concussion, and Danica Patrick's car struck and injured a member of the Dale Coyne Racing crew.

Chuck Buckman was not severely injured, but he was being treated at Methodist Hospital for a concussion and cuts to his face and scalp.

Also Friday, Jay Howard drew the No. 1 position in the qualifying order, with Briscoe in the No. 2 spot. Sarah Fisher drew the 61st and final spot.

The top 11 qualifiers at the end of the day Saturday will be locked in to the 33-car field. After 11 positions are filled, the bumping begins. With a full day of sunshine forecast, the final hour of the qualifying session could get interesting - and extremely busy.

"This is going to be such a mess," Dixon said. "The problem isn't running for the pole. The problem for those of us running for the pole is going to be the 20 or so cars running for the 11th spot. They're going to clog up the lines, so we're going for a safe one early on."

Action begins Saturday with one final practice session at 9 a.m. ET. The qualifying session starts at noon and ends at 6 p.m.

Pos  Driver             Team                 Speed
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi              226.968 mph
 2.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green       226.710 mph
 3.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green       226.688 mph
 4.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske               226.143 mph
 5.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green       225.990 mph
 6.  Dan Wheldon        Ganassi              225.674 mph
 7.  Vitor Meira        Panther              224.811 mph
 8.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green       224.744 mph
 9.  Tomas Scheckter    Luczo Dragon         224.712 mph
10.  Ryan Hunter-Reay   Rahal Letterman      224.125 mph
11.  Helio Castroneves  Penske               224.016 mph
12.  Buddy Rice         Dreyer & Reinbold    223.593 mph
13.  Alex Lloyd         Rahal Letterman      223.549 mph
14.  Townsend Bell      Dreyer & Reinbold    223.518 mph
15.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan  223.291 mph
16.  Oriol Servia       KV                   223.023 mph
17.  A.J. Foyt IV       Vision               222.980 mph
18.  Darren Manning     AJ Foyt              222.750 mph
19.  Ed Carpenter       Vision               222.559 mph
20.  Justin Wilson      Newman/Haas/Lanigan  222.459 mph
21.  Will Power         KV                   222.311 mph
22.  EJ Viso            HVM                  222.095 mph
23.  Sarah Fisher       Sarah Fisher         221.978 mph
24.  Davey Hamilton     Vision               221.026 mph
25.  Bruno Junqueira    Dale Coyne           220.923 mph
26.  Max Papis          Schmidt              220.429 mph
27.  Marty Roth         Roth                 219.268 mph
28.  Milka Duno         Dreyer & Reinbold    219.030 mph
29.  Jay Howard         Roth                 218.971 mph
30.  Mario Moraes       Dale Coyne           218.293 mph
31.  Mario Dominguez    Pacific Coast        217.918 mph
32.  Jaime Camara       Conquest             216.138 mph
33.  Enrique Bernoldi   Conquest             214.808 mph
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