By: Tony DiZinno, IndyCar Correspondent
- Ganassi, Penske sweep top three on grid
- KV Racing stars with fourth through sixth
- De Silvestro hospitalized following crash
Franchitti leads, Power trails into Sunday race
For the first time in 2011, someone other than Will Power or Alex Tagliani qualified on the pole for an IZOD IndyCar Series race. Dario Franchitti captured a pivotal pole position for Sunday’s Milwaukee 225, as IndyCar returns to the Milwaukee Mile following a year’s hiatus.
The Scotsman was the only driver of 26 who topped 170 mph in a two-lap average, setting the mark of 170.841. It was his 25th career pole in the series, besting Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves by nearly one mile per hour over the historic one-mile oval track.
This is going back to the way racing used to be,...
"It was my best run ever here. I really hung on there the last lap, as it was so slippery on the track," said the pole winner.
Franchitti, who attracted some heat for negative comments concerning the blind draw in the second of two races at Texas last weekend, won’t have any such issues about where he starts on Sunday. He charged from 28th to seventh in the second Texas race.
“It was a combination of the car and the setup was really close to being perfect and I just hung on to it,” Franchitti said. “There was lot of oversteer in Turn 3, but the upside to that was it was good everywhere else.”
Championship rival Power will have to perform a through-the-field act akin to Franchitti’s at Texas, except Milwaukee is a track where it isn’t a flat-out, drag-out and the driver has to do some working through traffic. The Australian starts 17th; he has finished only 11th and 14th in two prior open-wheel starts in Milwaukee (2006 and 2008).
Castroneves, whose race luck has been notoriously bad at Milwaukee, and Scott Dixon complete the Ganassi-Penske-Ganassi top three grid sweep. Castroneves has yet to better his best finish of second in his first Milwaukee start in 1998 (then in CART) while Dixon seeks a repeat of his 2009 win.
The Brazilian commented about his run, "I took a gamble, but it’s one of those things where someone has to do it. I was very low on downforce; but I was nevertheless comfortable, and this is great position from which to push forward on Sunday."
Dixon said, "We haven’t been as quick on our side of the team as Dario. We’ll continue to work on it and we’ll have something for them tomorrow on race day."
After the two de facto power teams, KV Racing stormed to an impressive fourth through sixth on the grid. It’s apparent the presence of new driver Tony Kanaan and his engineer Michael Cannon has galvanized the team and its performance, and a successful test in Milwaukee two weeks ago has paid dividends. The Brazilian lines up ahead of teammates Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso, and the trio looks to build on sets of great results, and no accidents, in two races at Texas.
"We work together," said Sato. "It wasn’t just about Tony being strong. We’re confident we can do the job as a team this weekend."
The pair of Ryans, each of whom has a prior win at Milwaukee, Hunter-Reay and Briscoe start seventh and eighth. When Briscoe’s finished in 2011 it’s been strong, but he has occasionally been caught up in other drivers’ problems. “RHR” led all 250 laps in 2004 and has had a terribly fraught start to 2011. With no finishes better than ninth, Hunter-Reay stands only 21st in the series standings.
Marco Andretti and Oriol Servia complete the top 10 on the grid. Danica Patrick starts 15th in what may be her final IndyCar race at Milwaukee, while James Hinchcliffe lines up fastest of the five rookies in 16th.
Hoping to just make the grid is Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing, as the Swiss driver’s luck on ovals remains absent. She crashed in turn four and was transported to nearby Froedert Hospital, awake and alert and complaining of minor back pain.
She has already been racing with gloves on her hands following burns suffered at Indianapolis. The team is down to its last Dallara chassis, known as “Pork Chop,” which will have to be repaired if it is to race on Sunday. It remains to be seen as well whether series officials will clear de Silvestro to drive.
HVM crewmembers that have actively tweeted from the @78_PORKCHOP account have yet to provide an update from the car on the popular social networking site.