Ryan Briscoe was the final driver to go out in qualifying Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway, but the Team Penske driver made the most of it, scoring the pole position for Sunday's Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300. Briscoe's four-lap average...
Ryan Briscoe was the final driver to go out in qualifying Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway, but the Team Penske driver made the most of it, scoring the pole position for Sunday's Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300. Briscoe's four-lap average of 215.818 mph bumped Scott Dixon from the top spot, with the championship leader starting alongside on the front row.
"It kind of helps being the last car to go," Briscoe said. "You know the goal, kind of a settling feeling. I knew I had a fast car, and I was pretty comforting going in. Coming around for the green, I didn't know what the first lap would be. I was pretty relieved to see it was above the pole speed. It's a great day."
Briscoe's pole came extra special as this weekend marked the first time since the Australian raced at the 1.5-mile oval since suffering a serious accident here in 2005. Rebounding from the bad memories, Briscoe scored his third pole of the season, the first on an oval.
"My car's been great out of the box this weekend," Briscoe added. "It's always a great feeling when you don't need to make big setup changes. Hopefully I run at the front and keep Dixon and hopefully Helio behind me tomorrow."
After holding the provisional pole for much of the session, Dixon settled for second. The New Zealander in the Chip Ganassi Racing machine turned four-lap average of 215.553 mph, edging out Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick by 0.0021 seconds.
"I was a little surprised we qualified so far up," Dixon said. "It seems [Tony Kanaan] and Briscoe were a fair bit quicker this morning. We knew that was going to play out. All in all I think we're pretty happy. I just wanted to qualify in the top five or six and definitely stay close to Helio. He tried some tricky stuff there in qualifying. The car's quick enough, we just have to try and keep it up there."
Dixon heads into the final points race of the season with a 30-point lead over Team Penske's Helio Castroneves. All Dixon needs is an eighth place finish or higher to claim his second IndyCar title. After two rough races at Infineon and Detroit, he can't wait for the pressure to be lifted, hopefully by raising the crown in victory lane.
"I wish we were rolling out there now to be honest," Dixon added. "It's definitely been dragged out over the last two races. Detroit was definitely disappointing but it didn't go our way. I think we could have had it sewn up then. I guess I'm anxious. One way or another, I want it over and done with. It's been a long and successful year and to top it off with a championship would be the ultimate, but only time will tell."
Castroneves, meanwhile, will have a tough road to hoe, as the Brazilian will start dead last on Sunday. He initially posted the fourth quickest average time in qualifying, but Brian Barnhart, president of competition, ruled that his Team Penske machine went below the white line on the backstretch during his run, thus disallowing the attempt.
"We're told even before we go out in qualifying to keep it above the white line," Dixon said. "They tell us the same thing in the driver's meeting as well. [Helio] was clearly below it."
Tony Kanaan will now start alongside teammate Patrick in fourth, averaging 215.368 mph in his qualifying run. Kanaan is working without longtime engineer Eric Cowdin this weekend. The 13-year veteran of Kanaan has been replaced by Allen McDonald, who teamed with Dario Franchitti's championship-winning effort last season.
Marco Andretti in the third of the Andretti Green Racing entries was fifth quickest, thanks to his 215.064 mph average. "We're happy with where we're starting," he said. "We need to find a couple of good changes overnight. We need to go and make the right decisions."
Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon will start sixth in his final race for the team, followed by Tomas Scheckter in the Luczo Dragon Racing entry. Vitor Meira, who will be replaced by Wheldon at Panther Racing for next season, lines up eighth. Marty Roth will make his third top-10 start of the year from ninth on the grid, with Will Power rounding out the top-10.
Twenty-eight cars took time, with all expected to start Sunday's 200-lap race. The green flag flies at 2:30 p.m. CST for what should be 300 miles of heart pounding action.