Qualifying: Dixon on pole

If not for bad luck, Chevrolet's IRL engine program would have no luck at all. Sam Hornish Jr. was sitting on the pole position in his much-maligned Chevy engine Friday night when heavy rain hit Richmond International Raceway about two-thirds of the way through the qualifying order for Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge. When qualifying resumed, Sarah Fisher and her Chevy took the pole from Hornish. That's when Scott Dixon put an end to Chevy's revival

Qualifying: Dixon on pole

Dixon was clocked more than 1-mph faster than Fisher to win the pole position with his Toyota-powered Panoz G Force, ending a frustrating yet gratifying night for GM Racing. Dixon was clocked at 168.138mph, easily topping the 167.004 that Fisher had just recorded.

For Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, the pole position also was a bit of a reprieve. Dixon and teammate Tomas Scheckter have encountered a variety of unusual circumstances -- fires, breakdowns and spinouts -- during a strange season in which Dixon has won two of six races yet stands second in points, 50 behind Tony Kanaan.

"It seems like everything that can go wrong has gone wrong," Dixon said. "The good thing is we have speed at every track we've been. Normally, that's the hardest thing to find, so that's a good sign."

Speed, on the other hand, has been elusive for General Motors. The Chevrolet engine has slogged through six difficult - some downright embarrassing - races to open the IRL IndyCar Series season. Richmond's three-quarter-mile tri-oval provides Chevy its best opportunity to compete with the Toyota and Honda.

"I have been frustrated, but that's something you have to evaluate from the outside," Fisher said. "We're all working hard. You can't point fingers at anyone. We're all in this together."

Three Chevrolets - Fisher, Hornish and Vitor Meira - will start in the top 10, easily the best qualifying effort of the season for GM Racing. The program's future has been so grim that Hornish's Panther Pennzoil Racing team last week tested a Cosworth engine previously built in partnership with Ford's CART program.

At Richmond, though, the piece that once had them swearing now has them singing. "They've given us as good an opportunity here as they can," Fisher said. "It's a setup track, so being able to work with your engineer to get the perfect car counts for a lot. Being able to hustle the car helps, too.

"All of the categories come in to play at this track. It's not a place like Fontana, where just one or two categories are important. You need everything to win here."

While the results for GM's struggling program were vastly improved, Dixon erased them with a lap of 16.138 seconds that might have been better had he not lost fuel pickup during the second of two qualifying laps.

"I think we would have had a little more, but we ran out of fuel in three and four on the last lap," Dixon said. "I think we might have broken into the 15s. The car was very well hooked up. I can't complain about anything."

Following Dixon and Fisher at the start of Saturday's 250-lap race will be Tora Takagi, Hornish, Tony Kanaan and Greg Ray. Gil de Ferran, Felipe Giaffone, Bryan Herta and Meira round out the top 10.

For Chevy, though, it was a promising effort, especially considering the way Hornish charged through the field June 15 to finish fifth in the Honda Indy 225 at another short track, one-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway. Prior to that, a Chevy-powered car had not finished on the lead lap in five IRL races.

"I think this shows what our ties our to Chevy," Hornish said. "We're trying to help them out as best we can. They're working very hard, and they're trying to help us."

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