By: Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Taglian lands his first Indy 500 pole
- Schmidt is on cloud nine with Tag's pole
- Dixon and Servia on front row
Tagliani and team owner Schmidt grab Indy prize on Tom Carnegie Pole Day
Tom Carnegie Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway came to a storybook ending with the $100,000 pole position award going to Alex Tagliani and team owner Schmidt Motorsports with the a four-lap qualifying speed of 227.472 mph.
Today is the greatest day in my life since my last child was born.
The 38 year old Canadian driver turned in a heroic effort at the close of the Fast Nine portion of qualifying for quadriplegic team owner Schmidt, who was forced into retirement from the sport after a practice accident in 1991.
“I have to give all praise to this team,” said Tagliani. “I see them in the shop, working night and day, from every day last winter. It is truly a family effort, and today all the hard work paid off.”
The feat topped a week of success for Tagliani who posted a fastest lap of 225.878 mph to set the pace for a chilly, breezy, full day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday. Tagliani was fastest of all qualifiers from the earlier afternoon qualifying session on Saturday as well, with an average four-lap speed of 226.954 mph.
A tearful Schmidt could not watch the huge television monitors stationed around the Speedway as Tagliani nailed down the first spot on the front row for his team. Afterwards he was emotional in saying, “Thank God we are here. We’re living the dream. Today is the greatest day in my life since my last child was born. I'm numb. This is a fantastic day”
Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon's mark of 227.340 mph in the Fast Nine put him into the middle of the front row, but the 2009 Indianapolis 500 winner might have done better still had his car not run out of fuel entering the final turn of his fourth qualifying lap.
“We ran out going into Turn 4,” said Dixon, “If we had not it would have been damn close. We could be starting up front.”
The same fate befell Dixon’s teammate and last year’s Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who slowed on his final lap of Fast Nine qualifications and was officially recorded with “No Speed”. Franchitti will start ninth in the May 29th race.
Newman Haas Lanigan driver Oriol Servia won the outside spot on the front row with a 227.168 mph average. “I am so happy,” said the Spaniard. “The car was on the limit the whole time around. It says so much about the team and our performance that we've come so far since last winter.”
Tagliani's teammate Townsend Bell took the inside spot on the second row with a 226.887 mph average speed, alongside Team Penske’s Will Power (226.773 mph) and Bryan Herta Racing’s Dan Wheldon (226.490 mph)
Panther Racing’s Buddy Rice at 225.786 mph and Sarah Fisher Racing’s Ed Carpenter (225.121 mph) begin the race on the inside and middle of the third row, with Franchitti on the outside.
Last year's pole-winning speed was 227.970 mph by Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, who yesterday topped the speedchart in Fast Friday practice but today lacked the same speed.
During the initial afternoon qualifying session Dixon posted a 226.701 mph effort and place second to Tagliani. Franchitti qualified third with an average speed of 226.379 mph. Dan Wheldon of Bryan Herta Racing qualified at 226.300 mph, while Tagliani teammate Townsend Bell averaged 226.277 mph. Sarah Fisher Racing's Ed Carpenter drove a solid 226.171 mph, and Team Penske's Will Power qualified on a speed of 226.089 mph. Newman Hass Lanigan Racing driver Oriol Servia was next at 226.775 mph. Panther's Buddy Rice qualified at 225.746 mph. KV Lotus Racing's Takuma Sato (225.736 mph) was tenth quick in the session.
Qualifications were halted at 3:30 PM EDT when showers moved northward from Turn 1 onto the Gasoline Alley garages and over the Speedway, bringing with them fears that the 2.5 mile oval could not be dried quickly enough for the anticipated “Fast Nine” portion of qualifications.
A crosswind from north to south caught rookie Hi Pin Tung out, spinning the Dragon Racing machine into Turn 2 on the final lap of his qualification attempt. The incident was the second mishap of the day. Ryan Briscoe crashed in the early morning practice session, damaging the rear of the No. 6 Dallara/Honda primary race car sufficiently that he had to finish the day and make his qualification attempt in his backup car.
Rookie Sebastian Saavedra of Conquest Racing was first out onto the track for a four-lap attempt to enter the 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500.
Simona de Silvestro, who was involved in a crash on Fast Friday in Turns 3 and 4, drove with bandaged hands to a mark of 224.392 mph putting her car into the 24th and final position on the grid determined on Pole Day.
Fan favorite Danica Patrick, at a four-lap average speed of 223.831 mph, was not sufficiently quick to earn a spot in the field on Saturday. Patrick was reserved in her remarks about the teamwide lack of speed in the Andretti Autosport garages. “The struggle has been weeklong,” she said. “I don't know what to think. This is Indy. You have to earn it.”
Morning IndyCar practice at the Speedway ahead of Pole qualifications found Tagliani again in the catbird seat on a best lap of 228.184 mph.
Second-quick was Buddy Rice with a fastest lap of 227.849 mph, followed by Will Power at 227.766 mph.
Sunday brings the close of qualifications for the May 29th race with bumping commencing in earnest when 33 cars are in the field.