Scott Dixon narrowly missed out on pole for tomorrow’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma, but P2 on the grid still represented a solid upswing in form at the end of a season in which road course qualifying has been an Achilles’ heel for the championship leader.
“We’re running something totally different than what we typically do,” Dixon admitted.
“We had a real think about whether we come and start where we did last year, where we thought we would be happy, then shift over. We just started with it. Seemed to drive quite nice to start with. Stuck with it. Did some minor adjustments to it. For a lot of us, it’s been trying to keep up with the wind direction, track temp. The conditions change here quickly and abruptly.
“I don’t know, we’ve really sucked in road course qualifying this year, so it was nice to actually make it to the Fast Six. I think it’s only my second time this year. Nice to finish [the season] on a strong note for qualifying.”
Dixon’s reference to the wind was part of a popular theme after qualifying. Sonoma is notorious for the challenges presented by its tendency for sudden changes in wind direction and the huge impact that has on the car’s handling, and IndyCar’s final qualifying session at the venue for the foreseeable future proved true to form.
“You feel it pretty quickly,” Dixon said. “You can break really deep into [turn] nine, then the next you go pretty much straight through the dirt. It’s hard to keep up. If you can look at the flags, you can understand the direction.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who edged Dixon out of pole, agreed.
“It’s definitely strange that way,” he said. “From a.m. to p.m., it’s two different racetracks. Especially with less downforce than we had last year, you don’t know what you’re going to get lap to lap. It’s really hard to push in qualifying, especially on the first lap.
“You don’t know where to brake. Kind of a crapshoot. With tire deg, it’s going to be very difficult tomorrow for anybody [not] to make mistakes, doesn’t matter how good your car is. Haven’t looked at the wind forecast, but that’s a big one. It makes it very, very difficult. Should make it for an interesting race tomorrow, for that reason.”