IndyCar Series championship leader Scott Dixon dominated two practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway and punctuated those efforts by earning his fifth pole award of the season this evening with a four-lap 218.968-mph (1:37.3293) qualifying average.

The New Zealander will start a race on the front row for the second time in six career appearances at the facility. He has produced an average fifth-place start and eighth-place finish at the track since his 2003 debut.

"I've started from many positions at Kentucky Speedway and it's a track where you can pass. If you have a good car, with the tires that Firestone is giving us this year, you can move pretty quickly. I thought the track was better this year than last year; I think they've done a great job," Dixon said.

He will start the race with a 65-point advantage over second-place championship driver Helio Castroneves. Dixon is eager to break into the track's Victory Lane for the first time after placing second in the 2007, 2006 and 2003 events, but expects tight competition in the "Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Pepsi and Edy's."

"It's going to be very tough. It's going to be more like a pack race than a spread out race tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to it," Dixon added.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will share the front row with Delphi Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira, who finished second to Scott Sharp by 0.0779 of a second in the series 2005 race in the Commonwealth.

Meira generated a 218.409-mph (1:37.5783) qualifying average and will start on the front row for the first time this season at a track where he's taken four straight top-10 finishes. He placed 10th in the 300-mile Kentucky test last season.

"My very first race on an oval track was here in 2002. This track has meant a lot to me, I've always finished well here. I think we have the car to do it (win). I don't know if it's the tires or something with the track, but everything feels really good.

"I am not upset about losing the pole. You have to respect the front row and we are starting in the front row," Meira said.

Dan Wheldon, third in the championship standings and 115 points behind Dixon, will start third tomorrow after producing a 218.332-mph (1:37.6127) average. He ended a string of three-straight top-five Kentucky finishes last season with a 17th-place showing. The Emberton, England native has led 176 of the 836 laps he's raced at the track, including a race-high 104 in 2005. Wheldon will share the second row with 2007 Firestone Indy Lights "Kentucky 100" winner Hideki Mutoh, who will start fourth after posting a 217.696-mph (1:37.8982) qualifying average.

Castroneves will start tomorrow's race sixth after posting a 217.642-mph (1:37.9225) average. He placed fifth in 2005, 2003 and 2002 Kentucky Speedway races and scored a track-best third-place finish in 2006. He placed ninth in 2007 and owns four top-five and five top-10 Kentucky finishes through six starts.

Danica Patrick, the 2005 Kentucky Speedway pole award winner, will start tomorrow's race 26th, the tail end of the field. She moved to a back-up when her primary No. 7 sustained damage during an incident in the second practice session this afternoon.

Matos Motors to Firestone Indy Lights "Kentucky 100" Pole Award Raphael Matos earned his fourth Firestone Indy Lights pole award of the season this afternoon and will share the "Kentucky 100" front row with Ana Beatriz tomorrow.

Matos grabbed his first career Kentucky pole award with a two-lap 190.604-mph (55.9064 seconds) qualifying average while Beatriz delivered a 190.211-mph (56.0219 seconds) average. She will make her fourth front row start of the season.

Today's front-row efforts should help the duo maintain their championship pressure on current leader Richard Antinucci, who qualified 10th with a 188.542-mph (56.5179 seconds) average.

Matos will start the 67-lap Kentucky Speedway sprint second in the championship hunt and one point behind Antinucci. Beatriz ranks third in the current standings and trails the leader by 44 points.

"It's really important to start in the front, because it is hard to pass here, Rafael is in front of me in the points.

"For sure the most important thing is to go to the podium with as many points as we can, so we can continue to fight for the championship," Beatriz said.

Matos will rely on knowledge from last week's Kentucky test session while trying to take the championship lead from Antinucci.

"This is the most important track to start up front at in our series because it is such a difficult track at which to pass.

"We had a couple of great tests earlier here. We improved the car and put everything together for a great qualifying position. It's always important to get experience at the track and with your equipment to understand how to make everything better," Matos said.

Speedway gates open tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Indie artist Josh Kelley takes the stage for his prerace on the Turn 1 Concourse at 4:30 p.m., the "Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Pepsi and Edy's" field is set to take the green flag at 6:30 p.m., and the Firestone Indy Lights "Kentucky 100" will follow at 9:00 p.m. The event is officially sold out. Limited $40 standing-room-only tickets will go on sale at 1:00 p.m., at the speedway main entrance.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~