IRL: Kanaan earns Pikes Peak pole, qualifying canceled

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (June 14, 2003) -- Qualifying for the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway was canceled due to rain, forcing Indy Racing League officials to set Sunday's grid based on combined practice times. Tony Kanaan will start...

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (June 14, 2003) -- Qualifying for the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway was canceled due to rain, forcing Indy Racing League officials to set Sunday's grid based on combined practice times.

Tony Kanaan will start from the pole position based on his practice speed from the second of two practice sessions held today. Kanaan, who averaged 180.232 mph around the one-mile oval, was the only driver to top the 180 mph mark.

Kanaan became the quickest driver to earn three poles after taking his third pole in his seventh IndyCar Series race. Arie Luyendyk earned his third pole in his eighth race.

"The first day I came here was this morning," said Kanaan. "I need to thank Dan Wheldon for the setup because he came here. I was hurt during the month of May. That's when the team came here to test."

Although Kanaan's practice speed was faster than the existing track record set by Greg Ray when he took the pole with a speed of 179.874 mph on June 17, 2000, a track record can only be posted during official qualifying or during a race.

Helio Castroneves will start second after recording a lap at 20.0222 seconds, an average speed of 179.800 mph. Castroneves also set his best time in the second practice session. All but two drivers in the field set their best speed of the day in the second session.

"I'm satisfied starting on the outside front row," said Castroneves. "We just have to keep our head cool and be patient tomorrow. Obviously, it's going to be about traffic. That's going to decide who will win.

"Like last year, Gil had a very strong car, and I was always right there, but unfortunately never had a chance to jump in front of him."

Felipe Giaffone, fastest in the first session at 178.125 mph, improved to 179.303 mph after trimming 0.1328 of second off his time. He will start third. "We started off with a really good car from the very beginning today. I would have really liked to have had a real qualifying session because I really think, after we made some changes to the car this afternoon, that we had a good shot at the pole."

Gil de Ferran and Tora Takagi round out the top five on the grid.

Dario Franchitti returns to action after sitting out three races due to a motorcycle accident in April. Franchitti turned a total of 76 laps with a best of 178.650 mph, good enough to start seventh in Sunday's race. "Today was busy day because I had to get up to speed myself. That slowed our development, but it was nice to be back out there."

Franchitti took extra time easing himself into the cockpit but found it was easier than he expected. "When I come into the pits, the muscle on the left side of my back tightens up, but when I'm out on the track, I feel great."

AL Unser Jr., who won at Texas Motor Speedway last week, will start 20th after practicing with full tanks. "We ran a lot of fuel because it's a two-day show, and we wanted to get some full-fuel runs done for the race," said Unser Jr. "I've never started this far back, so it's going to be really tough for us."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi