IRL: Michigan: Series qualifying report

BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007 -- IndyCar Series point leader Dario Franchitti earned his first AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award of the season, winning the pole for the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Franchitti ...

BROOKLYN, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007 -- IndyCar Series point leader Dario Franchitti earned his first AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award of the season, winning the pole for the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Franchitti recorded a lap of 32.9810 seconds, 218.309 mph, on the 2-mile oval. The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner will share the front row with three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., a native of nearby Defiance, Ohio, who is trying to win at MIS for the first time. Hornish recorded a lap at 218.024 mph.

Helio Castroneves (217.894), Scott Sharp (217.631) and Dan Wheldon (217.448) rounded out the top five. Scott Dixon, who is attempting to win a record fourth-straight race, will start seventh.

Five Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Firestone Indy 400: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005), Sam Hornish Jr. (2006) and Dario Franchitti (2007).

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Five IndyCar Series champions are scheduled to participate in the Firestone Indy 400: Scott Sharp (1996 co-champion), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001, 2002, 2006), Scott Dixon (2003), Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005).

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IndyCar Series drivers who have won Indy car events at MIS include: Tony Kanaan (1999), Tomas Scheckter (2002), Buddy Rice (2004) and Helio Castroneves (2006).

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The Firestone Indy 400 is the only event in the 2007 season that takes place on track with a distance of 2 miles. Michigan International Speedway will play host to the only 400-mile events on the 17-race schedule, the second-longest event of the year. Only the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is longer.

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Drivers entered in the Firestone Indy 400 have combined for 84 IndyCar Series victories, 80 IndyCar Series pole positions and 1,246 IndyCar Series starts.

Dario Franchitti is looking to becoming the seventh driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and an Indy-style race at Michigan in the same year. Drivers who have accomplished the feat include: Johnny Rutherford (1980), Gordon Johncock (1982), Bobby Rahal (1986), Rick Mears (1991), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) and Buddy Rice (2004).

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Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr. will be the grand marshal for the Firestone Indy 400. Unser will give the command to start engines for the Firestone Indy 400.

Unser made 33 Indy car starts at Michigan between 1968 and 1989. Throughout his storied open wheel racing career, he captured 39 victories, one of which came at MIS in 1974. Having placed in the top 10 in half of his open wheel starts here, it is no surprise that he led 345 career laps, ranking ninth on the all-time lap leaders list in open wheel events at MIS.

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MacDermott Roofing, Inc., in Detroit is this weekend's winner of the ABC Supply "Your Name Here" promotion for its customers. The company name will be put on the top of the sidepods of Darren Manning's No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. MacDermott Roofing's owner Dave MacDermott will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt and Manning. The "Your Name Here" promotion selects winners by random drawing from a pool of entries sent in by ABC Supply customers earlier this year.

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It might be difficult to read the special logo on one of the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing cars at 210-plus mph during the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. CJ Shoemaker doesn't mind; he's just happy to fill the "Your Name Here" space.

The 25-year-old Augusta, Mich., resident was the winner of an INDY DownForce sweepstakes that offered transportation, hotel accommodations and race tickets to the Sept. 9 race on the 1.5-mile oval.

INDY DownForce, the official fan club of the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series, offers a wide range of interactive and participatory activities for subscribers, including a fantasy racing league and pre-race events as Shoemaker noted.

CJ SHOEMAKER (INDY DownForce sweepstakes winner): "It's pretty awesome. I've never won anything before so it's really a huge surprise for me. I love the IndyCar Series; been a fan for years. And I love the fan club. From the pre-race parties to the prizes and everything else associated with the club, it's awesome. INDY DownForce pays you back."

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FIRESTONE INDY 400 POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's first pole this season and the fourth pole of his IndyCar Series career. This is the second time he has started first this season. He earned the pole at Richmond (points) when qualifications were cancelled due to weather.

* Sam Hornish Jr. will start second, his fourth front-row start this season.

* Tomas Scheckter qualified sixth, his best start of the season.

FIRESTONE INDY 400 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award winner): "It was a bit nerve-racking there at the end. It's been really good. It all worked out. I've got to thank my guys. The Canadian Club crew have really built a good car. My engineers have given us a heck of a setup, so hopefully, we'll do a good job tomorrow because that's where I've got to earn my money. We'll see if we can keep it up front." (About race strategy with a close championship battle) "We've got to do the best that we can week in and week out and look after things we can control. I can't control what Scott (Dixon) does. I can't control if he's going to win the race or he's going to crash or he's going to have a mechanical. I've got to focus on my thing, and everybody on the Canadian Club team has to do our best week in and week out and see what we end up with. Today was a good example of that. They gave me a heck of a car and allowed us to stick it on the pole. We had 2 1/2 hours of practice. About 2 hours, 25 minutes was race setup and five minutes was qualifying. It was actually so short we did sort of a half qualifying sim. We didn't even get to take the simulated green flag and the yellow came out for an accident in Turn 4, so we didn't' really get to do a full qualifying sim. I'm feeling quite good about my race car tomorrow."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "It's not quite what we wanted. The Team Penske guys and I made a decision between the first and second practices to make a couple of pretty big changes with the car. We didn't think it hurt the car that much, but running through the second practice we couldn't find the speed we wanted. We missed on the gears a little bit, but we found the speed that we need for tomorrow so I guess it's a good thing we did our experiment for qualifying. We feel it will make our race car better for tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "We've been working really hard today on our race setup without concentrating too much on qualifying. Despite that, we thought we could have gone a little quicker, but this is a long race, and there's plenty of time to climb to the front. Thankfully, Sam and I are starting the race close to each other on the grid, so hopefully we'll be able to work together in the draft to move forward. I'm really happy with how the Team Penske car is handling in traffic, so I think we have a good chance tomorrow if we can stay out of trouble."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Patron Sharp Rahal Letterman Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "It's another 'wow' in qualifying for us, I guess. I really didn't expect us to be that fast but my engineer Jeff (Britton) and the guys did a great job. They found a great balance on the car, and we turned in a great lap. We worked on our race setup in the practice sessions, so I don't think we really knew what we had in qualifying. But to put in a lap like that shows what this team is capable of. You always want to run your best lap in qualifying and that's what we did."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "The team is trying very hard. Everybody is at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Just a little bit off there in qualifying. Certainly we're going to do everything we can to get myself back in Victory Lane and try and help Scott close that gap in the championship. I personally don't think that I'm out of it, but we've just got to make sure that we capitalize on these next few races and pick up a couple of wins."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "I'm happy because we did the best job we could do. I've just got to thank the team and everybody that has been working really hard. Starting in the top 10 is something I'm happy with. In practice we showed we had a car that is good in race runs, and that's really what we need to focus on. We have a good car so we need to have a good clean race and I think we can finish well. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "It wasn't too bad a qualifying run. Pretty much what we expected really. I'm not sure how much your starting position matters here as long as you are in the top 10 really. People have come from even further back to win this race. You can definitely pass if you have a good car." (About going for four consecutive wins): "This is probably the most difficult track to try to do that at, and I have not had the best of luck here to be honest. I finished fifth here in 2003 and the rest of my races have been rather forgettable. But it certainly would be nice to continue the streak, but what is most important would be to finish ahead of Dario Franchitti for the points race."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "I don't know what happened during the first attempt, but we still had the same problem during the second one. I couldn't do anything. It's a shame because we had a good qualifying setup for the Team 7-Eleven car. Dario (Franchitti) is doing a good job representing us, though. We have no morning warmup so we have to get the problem fixed without going back on the track. We can definitely win here from the eighth position, though."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "Our qualifying run was pretty typical for what we've been getting on the ovals this year with the Motorola car. The car felt fine; it felt good. But, it just didn't go as fast as we needed it to. I've got to figure out why that is and be able to qualify up higher. Hopefully, we can find an answer for the last two ovals this year. For tomorrow, it's just going to be very important to be up front and with the group because it is going to be hard to pass with everybody so close in speed."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Hitachi Power Tools/Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, qualified 10th): "We were struggling finding speed this morning in practice, but we just kept working really hard and you know, my teammate, Tomas (Scheckter), has been pretty quick so we've just tried to work with him. I think what we ran is about all we had because that's what we were running in practice. The car is really good and we've got good cars for the race as well."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing