Ryan Briscoe will the lead the field to green in Saturday's Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway for the first oval-track race this year. Briscoe averaged 212.145 mph over four laps to earn his ninth career IndyCar Series pole.
"I was listening to (Scott) Dixon's stats before he was going out and they said he was going for (pole) No. 17 and I thought, 'that's too many. I need to take that from him," said Briscoe. "I'm glad I did."
Dixon claimed his first front row starting position of the season with an average speed of 211.298 mph. "We made some minor changes before qualifying and seemed to gain a little from the first practice session to the end," said Dixon, who last year led 134 laps on his way to victory lane at Kansas.
"The car didn't seem to have the speed it should have. Not sure where we lost the speed, but Briscoe seemed to stay consistent and fast. Hopefully we can find some of that tonight. The car was good in traffic and it drove well. Since we only had one practice session, it was harder to find and make any changes before the qualifying session."
Dixon topped the speed chart (212.694 mph) in the 1 hour and forty five minute practice session which was delayed due to rain and hail. All drivers participated in the single practice session that saw Mario Romancini hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn four. The single car incident delayed the session by 15 minutes while crews cleaned the debris from Romancini's wrecked car. Romancini was taken to the infield care center where he was checked and released. He is cleared to drive but the car was not repaired in time for qualifying.
Dan Wheldon's four lap average of 211.242 mph was good enough to start on the inside of the second row but the Englishman, who now resides in St. Petersburg, Fla, was deemed to have driven below the white line and his time was disallowed.
Marco Andretti was called for the same infraction and he too will start from the rear of the field for tomorrow's 1:00 p.m. start.
Because Wheldon is ahead of Andretti in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings, he will start ahead of Marco in the 25th position. Conquest Racing driver Mario Romancini, who did not make a qualification attempt, will start at the rear of the field in 27th position.
Dario Franchitti will start third. "We didn't have a good balance in practice when we were in qualifying trim. The boys did a good job getting a good balance for qualifying," said Franchitti, who was sixth fastest in practice. "We just weren't fast enough so we still have some work to do."
Hideki Mutoh found some speed this afternoon. After turning a best lap of 210.204 mph in practice (17th fastest), Mutoh put four laps together to average 211.039 mph, placing him on the outside of the second row. "We were expecting to have a good car in qualifying because the team was very strong in qualifying here last year," Mutoh said. "I knew the car would be good and I think I had four good, consistent laps so I am very happy."
Alex Tagliani has been consistently fast since joining the IndyCar series as the co-owner of FAZZT Racing but today he gave all the credit to his crew. "They did a fantastic job and it is one of the most well prepared cars that I have seen and is one of the best cars I have ever driven on an oval," Tagliani said. "Even with the rain delay today we had enough time to practice and the car was good right off of the truck."
Vitor Meira rounds out the third row with Penske Racing teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves filling the fourth row.
"I would have liked to qualify a bit better," Power said, "but we should be good in the race tomorrow. I'm just going to go out there and do my best to bring home a strong result and earn the maximum points possible."
Power currently leads the point standings by 42 over Castroneves.
Castroneves, who will start eighth, also expected to do a little better. "I think my teammates have a little more speed right now. But we will keep working hard. This is a challenging place. We're still trying to figure out the right setup and the right lines, but I know we'll be in good shape for the race tomorrow."
Danica Patrick led the five car assault by Andretti Autosport by qualifying ninth. While most warm-up laps were in the 208 mph range, Danica's warm up lap averaged 201.132 mph, "I was really loose on the first lap so I think that cost me a few spots, but I'm glad to be starting up front," said Patrick "I have a strong car, so I hope tomorrow ends with a result that shows just that."
Patrick turned four solid qualifying laps, each faster than the previous, but she was obviously hampered by her slow warm up lap.
Mike Conway in the Dreyer and Reinbold No. 24 rounded out the top ten qualifiers.