Sonoma: Series qualifying report

FRANCHITTI WINS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE AWARD AT INFINEON SONOMA, Calif. (Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009) - Dario Franchitti saved his best for last. Franchitti's final lap in the Firestone Fast Six shootout earned him the PEAK Performance Pole Award...

FRANCHITTI WINS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE AWARD AT INFINEON

SONOMA, Calif. (Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009) - Dario Franchitti saved his best for last.

Franchitti's final lap in the Firestone Fast Six shootout earned him the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma with a lap of 1 minute, 16.7987 seconds around the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway course during the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout.

Franchitti, the only driver to participate in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions this season, will be joined on the front row by Ryan Briscoe, who had set the bar early in the third and final qualifying session with a lap of 1:16.8485 in the No. 6 Team Penske car.

Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti will start on Row 2 while Hideki Mutoh and Graham Rahal round out the top six. Points leader Scott Dixon will line up 10th on the grid.

Penske Racing's Will Power and Conquest Racing's Nelson Philippe were hospitalized after an incident during the morning practice session.

Philippe's No. 34 iDrive Green entry for Conquest Racing spun at the exit of Turn 3a (blind cresting the 153-foot elevation portion of the corner) and came to a stop on the left side of the racetrack. E.J. Viso, driving the No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing car, attempted to avoid the car but clipped the front of Philippe's car with his left-rear tire. Power, also cresting the hill, couldn't avoid the debris and hit Philippe's car.

Both drivers were admitted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Power suffered compression fractures of the L2 and L4 (lumbar) vetebrae and was scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging. Philippe is scheduled for surgery to repair an open fracture to his left foot. Both drivers suffered concussions.

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DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

This is the fifth IndyCar Series event held at Infineon Raceway. Helio Castroneves is the defending race winner and won the Peak Performance Pole Award last year. Every former IndyCar Series winner at Infineon - Tony Kanaan (2005) Marco Andretti (2006), Scott Dixon (2007) and Castroneves (2008) - is entered.

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Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic women's figure skating gold medalist, and her husband, NHL defenseman Bret Hedican, took laps in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater on the 2.303-mile Infineon Raceway circuit Aug. 21.

"That was incredible," she said. "The power you feel going in to the turns was unreal. I was laughing and crying at the same time. I sweat more in two laps going around the track than I do when I'm on the ice."

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SPC Daniel Gerfen, a resident of Chico, Calif., is the Panther Racing National Guard "Hometown Hero" for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend.

Gerfen, assigned to the 649th Engineer Company of the California Army National Guard, will be recognized during driver introductions on Aug. 23 and will join Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon at the autograph session at Infineon Raceway (noon-1 p.m. under the main grandstand, Aug. 22).

Gerfen was deployed in 2007 to Camp Bucca Iraq in support Operation Iraqi Freedom VII, during which time he was charged with recovering vehicles damaged by improvised explosive devices among other duties.

Gerfen works for Valley Tractor, which was supportive of his National Guard service and his mission overseas. SPC Gerfen was recently recognized by the City of Chico and Mayor Andy Holcombe for outstanding service in his community and service abroad.

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The economic impact of the IndyCar Series' annual visit to the Bay Area was felt at one Corte Madera (Calif.) business.

Nearly all of the IndyCar Series teams that traveled to San Francisco on Aug. 21 made a pit stop at the In-N-Out Burger in Corte Madera. A half-hour before the restaurant open, nearly 80 crew members and even a few drivers were waiting for their chance at a Double-Double with Cheese.

Some drivers will likely wait until after the race weekend for their burger fix.

"I'll have some pasta before the race, but I'll head to In-N-Out on the way to the airport after the race," Dario Franchitti said.

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Former NFL star Junior Seau is working as part of Scott Dixon's pit crew at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway this. Seau is taking a break from football these days to shoot a new show for VERSUS, which will debut later this fall. Production on the show started a few weeks ago when Seau was spotted in LA working as a bat boy at a Los Angeles Dodgers game and as a cornerman for Forest Griffin at the UFC fight in Philadelphia on Aug. 8.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's fourth pole of the season and the 10th of his IndyCar Series career.

* Franchitti was the only driver to qualify for each Firestone Fast Six session this season. Ryan Briscoe qualified second, it is his eighth front row start this season.

* Marco Andretti qualified fourth, it was his best road/street course qualifying performance and his first Firestone Fast Six appearance this season.

* Hideki Mutoh qualified fifth in his first Firestone Fast Six appearance.

* Graham Rahal qualified sixth. He qualified for all but one Fast Six session.

* Franck Montagny qualified eighth for his IndyCar Series debut.

***

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "It's pretty cool (to make every Firestone Fast Six this season). It's so hard in the IndyCar Series with the competition level; there are so many good road racers. To make it into the Fast Six each time is an achievement every time. So to be in them all, I've got to thank my guys for giving me good cars. Sometimes you have to hang on to it as well and sometimes you have to wheel around. Today I had a pretty good car. In a couple corners I had to commit to them and hang on, but in general the car was really good. I'm very happy to get the Target car on the pole for the race.

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified second): "I had a pretty bad practice this morning; I spent more time in the dirt than on the tarmac. (But) I had a feeling we were in decent shape going into qualifying. The car felt good from the get-go and got better and I was right back into the groove. I felt confident going through the session with our strategy on tires. I could have gone quicker in (the Firestone Fast Six), but I just didn't get a clean lap together and I had a locking issue with the brakes. I was frustrated I couldn't get the pole, but Dario (Franchitti) was really quick and he certainly did a good job on used reds."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified third): "Qualifying was pretty exciting today, and I think the race shouldn't be much different. I'm a bit disappointed as I thought the Team Penske car was better than third place, and I'm sure Ryan (Briscoe - qualified 2nd) feels the same way. During the first session, we had a problem with our fuel pressure which the team was able to fix for Q2. Then in Q2, we had an issue with the throttle, which they were able to fix for Q3, so I guess taking all of this into consideration we did ok. The important thing is that the car is great and I'm feeling confident going into tomorrow's race."

(About Will Power): "I also want to say that we were all very concerned about Will (Power) and hope that he has a quick recovery. You never want to see any of your colleagues get hurt, especially a teammate. Will has done a lot to help us out this year, and it's just a shame that this had to happen to him today. We all know the risks involved in racing, but that doesn't make it any easier when someone you are close to gets hurt."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified fourth): "It wasn't that bad of a qualifying effort for the Venom boys. We're getting there. We're just learning how to use the red tires to our advantage."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, qualified fifth): "Right from the get-go, the Formula Dream car was very good. It's the first time I'm in the Fast Six, so I'm happy. I made a huge mistake in Turn 5. Hopefully, we can have a good race and score a podium finish tomorrow."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, qualified sixth): "The McDonald's car felt pretty good all day, especially for not having tested here. I thought we did a good job. When we showed up we were pretty close. There is still work to be done because we certainly struggled quite a lot in that last session of qualifying. It wasn't a very comfortable feeling; we'd like to be closer than that. Overall, the guys worked hard today. We made a lot of big changes over lunch, and they worked out, so they're going to sleep well tonight. We made the Firestone Fast Six again, which means we made it every race this year but one and that is a good feeling. Now we just need to have a straightforward race tomorrow, save some fuel, get by some of these guys and be in it for the win."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified 10th): "(Qualifying) was pretty dismal, actually. I'm really frustrated. We've been chasing a brake problem from this morning. Every time you really start to push the car and you go to brake later, we would lock the rears (brakes). We could see that there was something going on, we're just not sure what it is. The saving grace was Dario (Franchitti) winning the pole which is fantastic. It helps us keep some points off those Penske's. We'll have to go off strategy tomorrow and try something a bit different."

(About tomorrow's race): "This is the last of our road courses and then we have a whole run of mile-and-a-half ovals. All three of them are quite a bit different from each other. We faired pretty well last season at all of those races, obviously; winning one of them and finishing second in the other two. Hopefully we can drag something out of tomorrow's race and then have a good run on the last ovals."

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 23 with the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Carneros 100 on Aug. 23 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 24 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Franck Montagny , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Nelson Philippe , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , Hideki Mutoh
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , HVM Racing , Conquest Racing , Team Penske