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Dixon beats Moraes to Motegi pole

Scott Dixon takes Motegi poleScott Dixon denied Mario Moraes a first IndyCar pole position with a blistering run at the end of Motegi qualifying.

The pole gives Dixon a bonus point in his chase after championship leader Ryan Briscoe, although the reigning champion is still 32 points adrift with two rounds to go.

Briscoe will start fourth for Penske, alongside his main title rival Dario Franchitti (Ganassi), who is 25 points behind at present.

KV driver Moraes looked set for a superb maiden pole after his four-lap average of 201.504mph outpaced the rest of the usual frontrunners.

But Dixon was last in the qualifying line and comfortably beat Moraes' effort. No one else lapped over 202mph all afternoon, yet Dixon's entire four-lap run beat that mark, giving him only his second pole of the year.

While Briscoe's fourth position keeps him within range of his title rivals, his Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves will start at the back having understeered into the Turn 4 wall on his third qualifying lap. The crash ended a streak of Motegi poles for Castroneves - who had started first in Japan for the past three seasons, albeit twice due to championship positions as the 2006 and 2008 sessions were rained off.

Local favourite Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green) provided the other crash of the session, spinning into the Turn 3 wall. Mutoh limped away from the heavy accident but has already been cleared to race tomorrow as x-rays on his feet did not show any injuries.

Last year's winner Danica Patrick will start from sixth this time, having qualified between Newman/Haas/Lanigan duo Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia. As had been the case all day, Patrick was easily the fastest AGR runner, with Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti back in 14th and 15th.

Panther's Dan Wheldon took eighth, as Justin Wilson underlined his and Dale Coyne Racing's strides in oval form with ninth ahead of Tomas Scheckter (Dreyer & Reinbold)

Returnees Kosuke Matsuura (Conquest), Roger Yasukawa (Dreyer & Reinbold) and Stanton Barrett (3G) will start 17th, 18th and 21st.

Pos  Driver             Team                 Speed
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi              202.031
 2.  Mario Moraes       KV                   201.504
 3.  Dario Franchitti   Ganassi              201.395
 4.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske               200.849
 5.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan  200.649
 6.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green       200.519
 7.  Oriol Servia       Newman/Haas/Lanigan  199.703
 8.  Dan Wheldon        Panther              199.693
 9.  Justin Wilson      Coyne                199.489
10.  Tomas Scheckter    Dreyer & Reinbold    199.354
11.  Ed Carpenter       Vision               199.164
12.  Raphael Matos      Luczo Dragon         198.907
13.  Mike Conway        Dreyer & Reinbold    198.858
14.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green       198.650
15.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green       198.557
16.  Ryan Hunter-Reay   Foyt                 198.226
17.  Kosuke Matsuura    Conquest             197.921
18.  Roger Yasukawa     Dreyer & Reinbold    197.498
19.  EJ Viso            HVM                  197.443
20.  Robert Doornbos    HVM                  196.756
21.  Stanton Barrett    3G                   190.878
22.  Helio Castroneves  Penske
23.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green

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Briscoe bullish despite costly error
Dixon takes victory and points lead
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Dixon plays down stunning pole
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Castroneves leads first practice