Barbecue, the Chiefs, and the Royals are the cultural lynchpins of Kansas City sporting life; but if the shirtless grill-masters and sunning ladies in bikini tops, come out Saturday in football numbers to the only IndyCar race around are any clue,...
Barbecue, the Chiefs, and the Royals are the cultural lynchpins of Kansas City sporting life; but if the shirtless grill-masters and sunning ladies in bikini tops, come out Saturday in football numbers to the only IndyCar race around are any clue, the table looks to be tilting to a new springtime pursuit.
Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan continued his speedy work, building on his win at Twin Ring Motegi last Saturday by taking the pole for Sunday's (April 29th) Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at beautiful Kansas Speedway outside Kansas City.
Tony's lap of 214.188 mph (25.5476 seconds) was the only one to go above the 214 benchmark, both the price of ethanol on Thursday here in Kansas during a special IndyCar promotion and the reigning best-speed for pole at this track in the current wing and downforce configuration of the League's race cars.
"It's great to have this momentum, and a very good start to the season for our team. It's been my best average since 2004 when I won the championship. We're building it up and we will see what we can do this year," he said.
"It's a better starting position than last year (Kanaan started thirteenth)," he continued. "I had to pass close to seven cars on the first lap! So I guess I won't have to pass anyone this year, people will be trying to pass me," he finished, flashing that impish, "The Devil Made Me Do It" grin that is typical Tony Kanaan.
Sam Hornish, Jr (213.992 mph) and Helio Castroneves (213.817 mph) put their Team Penske Dallara/Honda's next on the grid, just ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon (213.812 mph) and Scott Dixon (213.793 mph).
"We started here second last year, so maybe it's a good omen," said Hornish, who did indeed win the event at this track a year ago. "Anyone in the top ten can work their way through traffic on this track if they have a good-handling car. I see a lot more close racing in the first six or seven cars than we've seen at places like Homestead."
Helio Castroneves did not look impressive in practice on Saturday, but when qualifying came he really turned it on for his team and his fans. "To be honest, I was a little nervous. We couldn't find any speed," he said.
"Team Penske did a great job coming up big for qualifying. I'm extremely happy for my race engineer (Ron Ruzewski). He did a great job setting me up this afternoon just like he has all season," he went on. "He makes me look like 'The Man', but HE is definitely 'The Man'!"
An electrical issue hampered Dario Franchitti's initial qualifying attempt, but when he came back online his time of 25.6811 seconds (213.075 mph) was good for sixth spot on the grid, just to the inside of Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter. Panther Racing's Vitor Meira placed eighth, just ahead of Marco Andretti and in tenth place his teammate Danica Patrick.
Sarah Fisher qualified seventeenth in her Dreyer & Reinbold car, one spot north of her teammate Buddy Rice. Marty Roth and Alex Barron, both returning after a brief respite from the series, made up the nineteenth and twentieth spots on the grid.
Milka Duno made her first IndyCar Series qualifying attempt a safe and sane one, bringing her brightly painted red, white and blue SAMAX/Citgo machine home with a best lap of 27.2754 seconds (208.256 mph). She'll start at the rear of the field for her first oval open-wheel race ever.
Duno's appearance alongside Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher marks a new historic moment for IndyCar Series racing: it's the first time three women drivers will start a race in major-league open-wheel competition in America.
Temperatures in the high seventies, and a bright sunny day with a few fluffy clouds greeted the twenty-one Indy Racing League drivers to this 1.5 mile oval in the Heart of America.
The stands were moderately well-populated with fans, but the infield was packed with fans reclining on rooftops of RV's, relaxing aside their Honda generators driving small televisions watching on TV, and streaming towards the fun from an overflow crowd of vehicles parked way beyond the Speedway's entrance.