FONTANA, Calif. -- Scott Dixon predicted that the IZOD IndyCar Series championship will be decided in the final turn of the final lap of the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who enters the 250-lap race under the lights Oct. 19 with a 25-point lead over Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, just might be on to something.
Castroneves, who was fifth quick at 218.601 mph (32.9367 seconds) in the 90-minute practice session preceding qualifications, was .0160 of a second faster than Dixon on the 2-mile D-shaped oval. Castroneves teammate Will Power (220.889 mph; 32.5955 seconds) was quickest in the session, while the third Team Penske car driven by AJ Allmendinger was fourth (219.045; 32.8700) on the time sheet.
Click it: MAVTV 500 practice 1 results
Single-car qualifying is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. (ET), with live Timing & Scoring augmented by the IMS Radio Network broadcast on www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 app. NBC Sports Network will broadcast qualifications at 7 p.m. (ET). NBC Sports Network's race broadcast starts at 8 p.m. (ET) Oct. 19.
Tony Kanaan (219.797 mph) was second quick in practice. He and Dixon are eligible for a $250,000 bonus from Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka for winning two of the three superspeedway races. James Hinchcliffe, a three-time winner this season, was third quick (219.479) in the practice.
Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, is seeking his first championship.
“At this point, I feel I have nothing to lose,” Castroneves said before the 90-minute practice session. “We just have to go for it. There is no pressure. I wasn’t watching the points standings all season until now.”
Both Dixon (Honda) and Castroneves (Chevrolet) will receive a 10 grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change. With 500 miles of racing, it's worth it for a fresh and updated engine.
The session was delayed twice because of single-car contact by the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing car driven by Takuma Sato and No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing car driven by Pippa Mann in Turn 4. Both were checked at the infield care center and cleared to drive.
"Really tough way to start the weekend, obviously," said Mann, who has competed in three races this season. "The seams here are pretty treacherous and I just was trying a different line through (Turns) 3 and 4, trying to run in traffic for the first time and it caught me out."