IRL: St. Pete: Qualifying report

CASTRONEVES WINS POLE FOR HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Saturday, March 31, 2007 -- Helio Castroneves took advantage of a mistake by Tony Kanaan to claim pole position for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg....

CASTRONEVES WINS POLE FOR HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Saturday, March 31, 2007 -- Helio Castroneves took advantage of a mistake by Tony Kanaan to claim pole position for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Kanaan, who posted the best time in single-car qualifying, looked like a lock for the pole position early in the 10-minute "Firestone Fast Six" qualifying shootout, but then Turn 9 of the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit bit the No. 11 team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone. The result was extensive left-side suspension damage. Because the incident brought out a full-course caution, Kanaan was dropped to the sixth starting position for the 100-lap race. The incident benefited Castroneves, the defending race champion, who improved his time in the shootout session (1 minute, 1.6839 seconds; 105.052 mph) from single-lap qualifying (1:01.8603; 104.551) and earned the 17th pole of his IndyCar Series career (extending his series record). Marco Andretti in the No. 26 NYSE car equaled his career-best start and will join Castroneves on the front row, while last year's pole winner, Dario Franchitti, and Scott Dixon will be on Row 2. Darren Manning gave A.J. Foyt Racing its best starting position (fifth) since 2004.

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Race Danica online: AirTran Airways has teamed up with IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick to launch a brand-new online game called AirTran Raceway. The airline, a sponsor of Patrick and Andretti Green Racing, will reward online gamers with airline tickets for logging the fastest time at www.airtranraceway.com. Players can choose to race "Digital Danica" on four different track options - all of which are set at an airport - and in a number of airport-themed racing vehicles such as a supercharged luggage truck. Patrick spent studio time modeling, recording sound bites and shooting countless emotions for the AirTran Raceway game. A virtual version of Patrick delivers comments on her competitor's racing skills - or lack thereof - during head-to-head races. AirTran Airways will link its game with the IndyCar Series schedule by rewarding the fastest racer on each of the game's four tracks with a round-trip ticket on AirTran Airways after every IndyCar Series race. To compete for participants need only sign up for AirTran Airways' award-winning frequent-flier program, A+ Rewards, and start racing at www.airtranraceway.com. The promotion to win a flight runs through Sept. 9.

TAD HUTCHESON (vice president of sales and marketing for AirTran Airways): "Whether you're into online gaming, a racing fan or just surfing the Internet for something fun, AirTran Airways is happy to provide the opportunity to compete with a real racing professional. Driving against Danica Patrick online, to win airline tickets or just as a fun way to get in the racing spirit, is one of the many benefits of being an A+ Rewards member and flying on AirTran Airways."

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Wheldon crashes: 2005 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Dan Wheldon was forced to a backup car after he found the tire barrier in Turn 3. Wheldon said he damaged the car by brushing the tire barrier at the exit of Turn 2.

"My outside right front clipped the tires at the outside of (Turn) 2, he said. "It damaged the suspension and put me into the wall."

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Firestone Fast Six Fast Facts (The format has been used at five previous races)

7 - Drivers who have improved their starting position (46.7%)

3 -- Drivers who improved to the pole position during the Firestone Fast Six session

2.4 -- Average starting position of the driver who was the fastest during single-lap qualifying.

2.6 -- Average single-lap qualifying position of the driver who won the pole during the Firestone Fast Six session.

4 -- Most spots improved; Scott Dixon went from fifth to first at Infineon in 2006.

1 -- Race where no positions changed (Infineon 2005).

2 -- Drivers who have participated in every Firestone Fast Six session (Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan).

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Helio Castroneves' 17th career IndyCar Series pole position, extending his series record for career poles. Castroneves' last pole occured at Kentucky last season.

* This is Team Penske's 30th IndyCar Series pole position.

* Castroneves' lap of 1:01.6839, 105.052 mph, set in Firestone Fast Six qualifying, set a new IndyCar Series event record at St. Petersburg.

* Marco Andretti matched his career best start of second, which was set at Infineon last season.

* Darren Manning will start fifth, the best start for an A.J. Foyt driver since A.J. Foyt IV started sixth at Chicagoland in 2004.

INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series Pole Award winner): "The guys at Team Penske are incredible. My engineer (Ron Ruzewski) did an outstanding job. Since the first session of the weekend, we've been figuring out what works and what doesn't work. We've been building a fast car, putting in good laps and it paid off in qualifying."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "I have to hand it to the NYSE guys. They worked very hard on the car. It wasn't easy, but I'm sure it wasn't easy for anybody. We were close to the pole on the last lap. My time was up but I had Scott Dixon in front of me, so it's a bummer.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "I'd prefer to be on the inside of the first row. We just didn't quite have it there. The Canadian Club car felt good in that one lap. I know I ran over some of (Tony Kanaan's) debris. Then it felt a little bit strange and I thought I felt the tire going down, but it wasn't the case. The starting position isn't too bad. I just feel bad for TK because he has been really quick all weekend. I think the Andretti Green Racing cars will be really strong in the race tomorrow. It was a great job by Marco (Andretti) as well."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "I'm feeling pretty confident about the car and the race. We'll definitely have some opportunities tomorrow to make our way forward. We really just have to keep earning points and keep our eye on the big prize. If we have a good race we could leave St.Pete leading the championship and that is what we want."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "It was a driver's mistake. I tried to anticipate the corner but unfortunately I clipped the inside wall and shot straight out to the outside wall. Unfortunately that was it for us. I still have tomorrow. The car is pretty good. We just have a little more work to do. It was my mistake and it's too bad for Team 7-Eleven because I don't think anyone was going to beat the time we posted. I have five cars to pass tomorrow so we'll see. Trust me, there are going to be a lot of people thinking about me tonight."

DARREN MANNING (No 14 ABC Supply ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "We've been working on hard on our communication and we're still getting the basics for what I like out of the car. Len Paskus, A.J, and myself are working better after each session, and its showing on the track. I know the ovals are an uphill battle but the street courses are about making the driver comfortable and giving him the confidence because a miniscule mistake on a street course is big. Starting off well boosts the whole team - mechanics, engineer, sponsors and owner (which is a big one for us) and the driver as well. My relationship is building all the time and our hard work is paying off. I think the race pace will be back up to us, and I'll race with these boys for sure.

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "I felt that I left a little bit out there during qualifying. I'm not 100 percent happy with our starting position, but I still think we'll be ok tomorrow. We weren't quite where we wanted to be after practice this morning and I definitely didn't get everything out of the car this afternoon. I made a little mistake on my qualifying run, and I think that kept us out of the top-six. With all that being said, we're still starting near the front and I think we will be fine for the race. Tomorrow is the day that counts and hopefully we'll be able to bring the Team Penske car home near the front."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 1 Ocala Gran Prix, finished sixth): "(About earning the pole for Race #2): "It's a lot better than what I had to do today and have to go through he whole field. There are a few guys who are off the pace and I think lap traffic will play a role. I have a really fast car and I'm confident that I can win."

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE:
10:15 -- 10:45 a.m. IndyCar Series warmup
2:45 p.m. Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (100 laps/181 miles), ESPN & IMS Radio Network (live)

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The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on April 1. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doubleheader on March 31 and April 1 on the Streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be telecast at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing