Qualifying: Dixon makes it three

The first time Scott Dixon tested at Nashville Superspeedway, he left with a headache. The first time he qualified at the 1.33-mile track, he won the pole position. The Ganassi Racing driver was clocked at 206.211 mph Friday afternoon on his first qualifying effort on a concrete oval, taking the pole for Saturday night's IRL IndyCar Series race. Before a test session last week, Dixon had never seen an oval track that wasn't paved with asphalt

Qualifying: Dixon makes it three

"The first time we tested here, I got a bad headache," Dixon said. "I kept bumping my head on the headrest. In the turns where there's been some grinding, you can really feel the grooves. That's what really wears on the tyres. I think tomorrow is going to be a race not so much of saving fuel, but of hooking up your tyres."

Dixon's pole was his third in a row, pushing him closer to the IRL record of four consecutive poles set in 1998 by Billy Boat. Dixon won poles at Richmond and Kansas City, but before Friday, his only experience with concrete came during CART races on street courses and Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport in 2000 and 2001.

Although he still trails Tony Kanaan in the IndyCar Series standings, Dixon has put together remarkable runs of success mixed with misfortune. His record string of laps led ended at Kansas City, as did his two-race winning streak.

"It would be nice if we could keep it going this way the rest of the season," Dixon said. "We've had the speed, we just haven't always been consistent."

Nashville's surface presents an unusual challenge for IndyCar drivers because of its abrasion and seams. The seams - placed in even intervals around the track to allow for expansion - create a constant rattling inside the cockpit. The abrasion creates a sensation similar to that felt when driving on interstate highways grooved with ribs.

"Sometimes you get that feeling when you're in the middle of the turn," Gil de Ferran said. "It's not actually sliding; the car is wiggling in the grooves."

Dixon's lap knocked Helio Castroneves out of the top spot after he had displaced Tony Kanaan. Castroneves, who held the pole for most of the qualifying session, says concrete magnifies several variables. Nashville is one of just three ovals in the U.S. with a concrete surface - Dover and Bristol are the others.

"It's tough here," said Castroneves, who experienced Nashville's layout for the first time last season. "You don't get the rubber that you do on an asphalt track. It's abrasive. You might have an issue with the tires. It depends on the setup you're running. There are so many different things."

Following Dixon and Castroneves on the starting grid will be Tora Takagi and de Ferran in the second row, and Tomas Scheckter and Alex Barron in the third row. Barron is in his first race in the Mo Nunn Racing No. 21 Toyota-powered Panoz G Force of injured driver Felipe Giaffone.

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