LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Ryan Hunter-Reay stressed during the July 31 Open Test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that there was "plenty of time" left in the season to make a run for his second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
Following three consecutive finishes out of the top 10 in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport, earning the Verizon P1 Award for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio bolstered the Florida resident's statement and outlook.
Hunter-Reay recorded a lap of 1 minute, 05.3519 -- tantalizing close to the track record of 1:05.347 shared by Dario Franchitti (August 1999) and Gil de Ferran (August 2000) -- in the Firestone Fast Six to claim his third pole of the season and first in eight starts at Mid-Ohio.
Click it: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio qualifying results
Will Power, the 2012 pole sitter in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was .1840 of a second back for his fourth front-row start of the season. Scott Dixon, who has won the past two races at Mid-Ohio and four of the past six, will be on Row 2 with Marco Andretti, who made his first appearance of the season in the Firestone Fast Six. Dixon teammates Charlie Kimball tied his career-best qualifying effort of fifth and Franchitti checked in sixth.
Championship points leader Helio Castroneves, who enters the 90-lap race Aug. 4 (3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network) with a 29-point lead over Dixon, will start 15th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske car. It's the fourth non-top 10 qualifying result of the season and the first since Milwaukee in mid-June. He finished second in that 250-lap race on the one-mile oval.
“We’re going to try something different because what we were planning on doing tomorrow strategy-wise won’t work with as far back as we will have to start," he said. "Tomorrow will be a long race and I know we’ll be able to make it back up.”
Hunter-Reay, who eclipsed Power's 2012 pole time, is third in the standings (-68 points) with six races remaining. Leaving Mid-Ohio last August, he was second (five points behind Power). Hunter-Reay fell 36 points behind following the race at Sonoma, but reclaimed some points by winning the next race at Baltimore to head into the season finale at Auto Club Speedway 17 points off the lead.
"Last year we clawed back from bigger deficits," he said. "Being late in the season, we need to go like we did last year at the end of the season, which is go for broke. We're not interested in banking results right now and going for second or third in the championship because nobody really remembers who finishes second a couple of years from now.
"We're going for it. Hopefully this is the first step in it. But we have a long way to go, including tomorrow's fight for the win. It’s going to be a long, hard race going up against the Ganassi, Penske boys and my teammates as well."
Dixon has won from the third starting spot at Mid-Ohio in 2009, while his other victories on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course came from first, fourth and sixth.
"We have six races to go; anything can happen," Dixon said. "We're not focusing on Helio; we're just focusing on what we need to do."
Justin Wilson missed the Firestone Fast Six by .0535 of a second in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car for Dale Coyne Racing but still earned his best qualifying result of the season.
"It’s going to be about speed, fuel economy, strategy and a little bit of luck, and hopefully we can put it all together,” Wilson said.