Hunter-Reay Steals Pole Away From Dixon at Sonoma

By Mark Robinson |

SONOMA, California – Ryan Hunter-Reay did his part to help teammate Alexander Rossi’s quest for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, earning a Verizon P1 Award in the process.

Hunter-Reay put the No. 28 DHL Honda on the pole position in qualifying Saturday for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma with a final lap in the climactic Firestone Fast Six round of 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds (110.605 mph). In doing so, Hunter-Reay collected his first pole position since 2014 at Long Beach and prevented championship leader Scott Dixon from earning an important bonus point for being the fast qualifier.

Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, will start second after a lap of 1:17.7599 (110.417 mph) in the last of the three knockout qualifying rounds. Chasing a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Dixon takes a 29-point lead into Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway.

The remaining championship contenders will be near Dixon when the green flag drops on the 2.385-mile permanent road course. Rossi, second in the standings, will start sixth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.

Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden qualified third in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Will Power will start seventh in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, the lowest qualifying effort this season for the 2014 champion this season. Newgarden and Power each trail Dixon by 87 points and still are mathematically eligible to win the championship.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, made a spectacular Verizon IndyCar Series debut by advancing to the Firestone Fast Six and qualifying fifth in the No. 8 Harding Group Chevrolet. It marked the best qualifying effort for Harding Racing in its first full-time season.

Marco Andretti reached the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2018, qualifying fourth in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. Andretti won the pole for the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in June under the single-session group-qualifying format.

The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma pays double the normal race points, with 100 going to the winner, 80 for second place and down to 10 points for 25th position. For either Newgarden or Power to win the season title, they must win the race, have Dixon finish no better than 23rd and Rossi no better than 10th (pending bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps). Rossi could lay claim to his first title under several scenarios, the easiest by winning and having Dixon finish no better than third.

Live coverage of the 85-lap race, including the post-race championship presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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