IRL: St. Pete: Qualifying report

ANDRETTI GREEN RACING CONTINUES QUALIFYING DOMINANCE AT HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 -- Dario Franchitti won Marlboro Pole Award for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was the third IndyCar...

ANDRETTI GREEN RACING CONTINUES QUALIFYING DOMINANCE AT HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 1, 2006 -- Dario Franchitti won Marlboro Pole Award for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was the third IndyCar Series pole position of Franchitti's career. Franchitti recorded a time of 1 minute, 2.2753 seconds, 104.054 mph, which broke the track record set by his Andretti Green Racing teammate Bryan Herta in 2005. It was Franchitti's first pole on a non-oval race course.

"Finishing 1-2-3-4 last year was amazing," Franchitti said. "It was something people thought we couldn't do, and we weren't so sure we could do it. Things just fell our way as a team last year. I was disappointed not to win it because of the problems in our pit. We left Homestead on a high note. We really did. That sets us up for the whole season."

Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon will start second on the grid after posting a lap of 1:02.5951, 103.522 mph. Dixon was on the provisional pole through the latter half of the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session, before Franchitti put together his fast lap in the closing seconds. Dixon was the biggest mover in the Fast Six qualifying, moving up two positions after posting the fourth-fastest lap in single-lap qualifying.

Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six was Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan, Marlboro Team Penske teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves, with Bryan Herta of Andretti Green Racing rounding out the Top 6.

POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's third career IndyCar Series pole position and first Marlboro Pole Award of the season. Franchitti's last pole position came at California last October. It is his first pole for a non-oval event.

* Franchitti's lap of 1:02.2753, 104.054 mph, broke Bryan Herta's track record of 1:02.5096 seconds, 103.664 mph, set last year. He is only second driver to keep the pole after Firestone Fast Six qualifying, joining Ryan Briscoe, who kept the pole at Infineon.

* This is Andretti Green Racing's 13th IndyCar Series pole position. Its last pole came at California with Herta. AGR cars have won the pole at each event here in St. Petersburg.

* Only one position changed during Firestone Fast Six Qualifying. Dixon went from fourth to second. All six drivers did improve upon their times from single-lap qualifications.

* Tony Kanaan is the only driver to participate in every Firestone Fast Six qualifying session.

POST-MARLBORO POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "We made some drastic changes on the car after the single lap qualifying, and the car improved tremendously. I think our car right now is in a great race set up, and I think we'll be up front tomorrow. I really like this race track, and we've been fast all week. They had some problems with Dan's car today, and I guess I'm a little surprised he's not a little higher. I thought Helio might jump up there with us, because he's always strong on road courses. Dario will be fast tomorrow, as he's been all week."

TONY KANAAN (#11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "This type of qualifying format is fun and I think (Scott) Dixon got us right at the end. It's going to be a long race but the #11 Team 7-Eleven car is very good this weekend. I'm very happy for Dario (Franchitti) and the entire AGR team; it's our second straight pole at this race track. We had our moment that will last for the rest of our lives at this track last year and hopefully it will bring us more luck tomorrow. The crowd is great, they love what they are watching and it's just the perfect environment."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "Our first run went really well, and the car felt great. During the Firestone fast six, I was quick enough to probably move up a couple of times, but then I got loose in the last corner and lost a little bit of time. I actually like the single car run better because we always seem to move backwards when we get out in the fast six. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how things have gone this weekend. I'm really looking forward to the race and hope to bring the Marlboro Team Penske car home in the top five."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "The Marlboro Team Penske car felt really good for qualifying, but we just weren't as fast as we expected. We're still happy to be starting in the top-five and I think we're definitely in a position where we can win the race. We're going to follow the leaders tomorrow and play it safe -- it's my goal to complete more than 12 laps (Castroneves was involved in an on-track incident last year and his day ended on lap 13). The field has been tough all weekend and everyone is right there, so I think pit stops will be a huge factor and our guys always do a great job."

BRYAN HERTA (#7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "This was fun but it was a little more fun last year when I was on the pole. We just picked up a little understeer in the #7 XM Satellite Radio car and couldn't quite dial it out in the time that we had available to us. We've got a good starting spot and I know we have a good car, so we'll just try and improve and go from there."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, qualified seventh): "I think we left a little on the table out there. We just didn't get everything out of the car but with only one lap, it is tough to have it all perfect. The grip level in qualifying wasn't as good as the temperature was higher. I think the track temp was over 120 degrees. That is hotter than we have seen earlier today. This is the second road race in a row that we just missed the shootout (7th at Watkins Glen). I think the shootout is great for the fans and the teams. I know we get excited about being in it. We just missed it today. I think we have a good racecar for Sunday. Starting seventh is not the best but you can get up with the leaders from there. This track lends to three passing zones and we also have a fuel strategy that will make the race interesting. This track is as physical as the Infineon (Sears Point) track or the (Watkins) Glen. But it is hotter here and that will be tough on the drivers too."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (#55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "I knew it was going to be difficult in qualifying, but I am a little disappointed with this time and this result. In practice, when we put new tires on, the car developed quite a bit of push. I knew it was going to be very difficult to put everything together for one lap. I'm not concerned for the race, but it hurt us in qualifying. I am very confident for tomorrow. We have been pretty strong all weekend, and I am looking forward to finishing in the top three tomorrow."

MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 NYSE Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 10th): "I think I got the most out of the #27 NYSE car, it felt pretty good. Now we just look forward to the race. We're in the show and I'm looking forward to hopefully moving up through the field tomorrow."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing