Dario Franchitti nailed down his third pole of the IndyCar Series season in Toronto today. The Scotsman led a Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske sweep of the front row, but by any measure this was a highly competitive qualifying session involving...
Dario Franchitti nailed down his third pole of the IndyCar Series season in Toronto today. The Scotsman led a Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske sweep of the front row, but by any measure this was a highly competitive qualifying session involving a variety of different teams.
Six different teams made the Firestone Fast Six, Franchitti and Will Power being the only representatives of the powerhouse Ganassi and Penske organizations.
Franchitti clocked the weekend's fastest lap, 1:01.0249 (some 2.8 seconds off the final Champ Car pole set in 2007), with Power second at 1:01.2851.
"That was all she had today, I rung her neck out there," Franchitti said. "It was very difficult to get a clear lap because of the difference in pace in the teams. Luckily it gets easier as the sessions go on, and only six cars on a big track gives you some room to work with."
Each driver has a bit of history at Toronto. Franchitti also scored poles here in 1997 and 1998, winning the race in 1999, while Power won the Champ Car race in 2007.
"We're real happy to be second, but it's better to be first," Power naturally opined. "We haven't been racing since May, so good to be back."
Power's outside front row start upholds Penske's honor. Their respective teammates, Scott Dixon (Ganassi), Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe (Penske), all ran aground of traffic and struggled to get clear laps. Those three all failed to advance to the final Firestone Fast Six session, and will start 8th, 10th and 11th respectively.
Dixon and Castroneves were engaged in a dustup towards the end of the second round of qualifying, each complaining of traffic in the tight confines of the 1.721-mile street course. Castroneves in particular was furious, stuck behind Dixon towards the end of the session as Dixon was slowed by another car in front of him.
"I lost at least three laps because of traffic," Castroneves noted. "I don't know why slower cars didn't let us by. A lot of different teams at the top really changes this race up."
"I didn't mean to do that to Helio," Dixon said. "It was real tough to get a clean lap. A couple tenths would have put us third in the practice."
Outside of the red-and-white cars that usually take residence atop the timesheets, it was a day to be enjoyed for those teams without the budget and/or resources to contend on a regular basis.
Graham Rahal starts third for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, wearing a helmet that is half his usual paint scheme and the other similar to his father Bobby's. The elder Rahal won the inaugural race in Toronto in 1986. Teammate Robert Doornbos rolls off seventh but has been quick all weekend.
Justin Wilson starts fourth for Dale Coyne's team with Alex Tagliani of Conquest Racing and Mike Conway of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing completing the top six. Tagliani topped the second round of qualifying at 1:01.0567 but could not emulate that in the fast six.
"It was disappointing to come up short, as we were hoping for a pole, but that's how it goes," Wilson said.
Doornbos, Dixon, Friday practice leader Raphael Matos and Castroneves complete the top ten. Briscoe starts 11th with Ryan Hunter-Reay of A.J. Foyt Enterprises 12th.
None of the four Andretti Green Racing entries advanced out of the first round. A fraught weekend for the team in a race staged by AGR Promotions sees starting positions of 17th, 18th, 20th and 22nd. Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick led Tony Kanaan and Hideki Mutoh.
"This team's better than what we've shown," team co-owner Kim Green remarked during the session.
Kanaan's weekend has been nightmarish to say the least. A crash in the morning's rain-soaked practice session left his crew scrambling to fix his #11 entry. Then in qualifying, he spun exiting turn eight and was lucky not to be clobbered directly by Mutoh, who entered the turn at full speed. He averted the incident by nosing into the tire barriers and suffering slight wing damage.
"I've never had a year like this, but I'm still trying to keep it positive," Kanaan said.
Paul Tracy also had a tough go of it, and will start in the same position as his car number, 15. He was less than one hundredth from advancing out of the first round. He was quickest in the morning's practice but the setup did not carry over as conditions were sunny and clear for qualifying.
"We should have been better than this," the "Thrill from West Hill" said. "The car was good in the rain but not in the dry. It's frustrating when you're so close. It's not fun to have to come from the back, as we were hoping for the top eight."
Small consolation there is that Tracy also started 15th at Edmonton last year in his first road race in the Dallara-Honda IndyCar, but drove to a gratifying fourth-place finish. Worth watching whether the legendary and/or notorious "Chrome Horn" will be on display as "PT" will have to charge through the field.
Tomorrow's Honda Indy Toronto rolls off a little after 1:00 P.M. ET and is the last of five races to be televised on ABC, with the balance of the season afterwards on VERSUS.