IRL: Fontana: Qualifying report

FRANCHITTI CLAIMS FIRST POLE OF SEASON AT CALIFORNIA FONTANA, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005 -- Dario Franchitti claimed his first Marlboro Pole Award of the season -- and second of his IndyCar Series career -- as he claimed the pole position...


FONTANA, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005 -- Dario Franchitti claimed his first Marlboro Pole Award of the season -- and second of his IndyCar Series career -- as he claimed the pole position for the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway.

Franchitti recorded a quick lap of 219.398 mph on the 2-mile D-shaped oval in the No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone. He set an IndyCar Series record with his 16th top-10 start of the season and became the eighth different pole winner this season.

The pole is the 13th for Andretti Green Racing in the 17 events.

Tomas Scheckter will make his fifth front-row start of the season in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone after a lap of 218.902 mph. Sam Hornish Jr. (218.602) and Bombardier Rookie of the Year winner Danica Patrick (218.199) will occupy Row 2. Dan Wheldon, who wrapped up the IndyCar Series championship at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 25, will start seventh.

2004 Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Thiago Medeiros, who is making his IndyCar Series debut this weekend, crashed during practice and did not make a qualifying attempt.


DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Marlboro Pole Award): ""We're happy with the car and that run. It just takes the slightest thing to affect your car at a place like this. A lot of it is luck, honestly. But we knew we had a good car all day. We still need to do a little homework tonight, but we like our car. This track is more of a mental challenge than physical, and 400 miles can be challenging." (About winning the pole): "Qualifying at these type of tracks is really geared towards the engineers and the engine guys. Our engineer absolutely hit the balance and the level of grip, and the engine was incredibly strong. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a good car and we'll see what we can do."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, qualified second): "It was a good run. I mean, that's all we had. We had a bit of a pickup problem in practice, so we were only able to do one run, and that was just a (non-qualifying) run. We actually thought we were going to have to run qualifying with our race engine, but the guys worked really hard and were able to figure out what was causing the problem. We ended up doing three laps before the green instead of our normal two so that if we had the problem again, we could get it sorted out and go back to qualify. Not exactly the way we wanted to do it, but that's all we had."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified third): "Once we got the gearing right, the Marlboro Team Penske car was exactly where we needed it to be for qualifying. You can win from anywhere on the grid, but it is always nice to start up front to avoid any problems on the start. The race is what counts and the California Speedway has always been good to me. I'd love to end the season with another win here."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "The wind was a factor in qualifying today. We were trying for a two-gear strategy in qualifying, and we just ran the one gear this time. There is no way to predict the wind. Qualifying is a whole different thing than the race. I think we'll be in good shape for the race on Sunday. I thought we had a good chance for the pole, but it didn't get it today. I'm a little disappointed, but I have won three poles this year. I was looking for the rookie record with four poles. But now, I'd take a win in my rookie year on Sunday. This track is like many of the tracks we have raced this year, and we have been competitive. The race is a little longer than most at 400 miles, and we will have a lot of time to work with the car in the 200 laps. I think we will have a chance to win, but so will Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira). They have good cars too."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "We really didn't do any qualifying runs until the end of the last practice session. We worked on race setup each practice today. It was a pretty decent run for not trying to do any qualifying setup. This is a big handling track during the race, and that is what we worked on for all of practice. It would be great to finish off with a win after the tough season we have had this year. We'll have to play out the race strategy. Last year, Helio (Castroneves), Tony (Kanaan) and myself ran away from the field, and I felt I had a car to win. We had a little problem late in the race, and I lost the speed we had earlier in the race, so we faded to fifth at the end. We need to stay in the draft and see how everything plays out. There could be rain in the forecast, too, so that could change the strategy for us. But overall, I think we can race with the leaders throughout the race and plan for the final 20 laps."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, qualified sixth): ""I'm happy with our qualifying effort today. We made changes to the Marlboro Team Penske car after the warm-up based on the conditions we expected for this afternoon and our speed (217.765 mph) was exactly what we anticipated. It would have been nice to continue our streak and get three consecutive poles at California Speedway, but it will be even better if we can get our first win here tomorrow."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "We just don't seem to be very quick. I'm sure the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team is good enough to make sure we have a reasonable car in the race, I'm just not sure how good the car will be. I'm just really happy to see Dario (Franchitti) on the pole."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "The XM Satellite Radio car felt the best it has been all weekend. It just didn't make the number we were hoping for. We put Dario's (Franchitti) setup on and the car felt good. I was comfortable, the speed wasn't there, but hopefully we'll finish well."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 10th): "We really struggle in qualifying as a team. But, we are all on different setups, that's why you see all of us quick at different times. If you look at our qualifying setups, they are all different. Nothing is similar. We know that Team 7-Eleven has a good race car, so we're not too worried."


The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition concludes with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The final Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the California 100 on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The ESPN2 race telecast will be available live on It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 20.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Dario Franchitti , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske