Texas: Series qualifying report

FRANCHITTI WINS POLE FOR BOMBARDIER LEARJET 550K FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, June 05, 2009 - Dario Franchitti earned his first PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season and the seventh of his IndyCar Series career with a four-lap average of...


FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, June 05, 2009 - Dario Franchitti earned his first PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season and the seventh of his IndyCar Series career with a four-lap average of 214.513 mph on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

The top four drivers in the series championship--the same four drivers that swept the first two rows in qualifying--posted speed averages in the 214-mph bracket.

Ryan Briscoe will start alongside Franchitti in the Bombardier Learjet 550k after a four-lap average of 214.413 mph.

Points leader and defending race winner Scott Dixon (214.296) and Helio Castroneves (214.228) will be on Row 2. Danica Patrick will start fifth (213.929) and share Row 3 with Mario Moraes (213.717).


It was apparent to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing senior engineer Craig Hampson - among others - that the team needed to build a superspeedway baseline to be more competitive on ovals in the '09 season.

Texas Motor Speedway fit the profile for testing in October with Graham Rahal and in early April with Robert Doornbos. Data from both sessions was compared to last June's Bombardier Learjet 550k, when Rahal and Justin Wilson competed for the first-year IndyCar Series team.

In the first oval event of this season -- on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway - Rahal won the pole and Doornbos joined him on the front row. He qualified fourth at Indianapolis. Last week at Milwaukee, Rahal started second and finished fourth.

It's not a coincidence.

"The Texas track is bumpy so you need a good setup of springs and dampers for mechanical grip," Hampson said. "However, at the big speedways in the IndyCar Series, your car speed is mainly dictated by aerodynamics so these tests have been invaluable to try and evaluate various items on the cars. At each of these tests we've been running alone, so the results were not clouded by traffic or tows. The information gathered has been very useful."

Last year, Rahal's best finish on an oval was 10th at Iowa Speedway (a race that 18 of the 26 cars entered running at the finish). Doornbos' first experience on an oval in an IndyCar Series machine was in the April test.

"I think the McDonald's boys have done a great job in the off-season," Rahal said. "We made quite a lot of progress. We have two poles in five races and started on the front row a total of three times and was fourth at Indianapolis, which is the inside of the second row. We've been extremely competitive.

"We're coming off a high in Milwaukee. We finished fourth, which is our best oval finish. I think we proved we have the pace on the 1.5-mile ovals. We should be right up front here. Robert (Doornbos) tested here earlier in the season and I tested here at the end of last season and the cars are really competitive. We were really pleased with the progress we made."



* This is Dario Franchitti's first PEAK Performance Pole Award of 2009 and the seventh of his IndyCar Series career. His last pole came at Chicagoland Speedway in Sept. 2007.

* This is Franchitti's second pole at Texas Motor Speedway. He scored his first IndyCar Series pole here in 2004.

* Ryan Briscoe qualified second -- his third consecutive front row start - his best start at Texas.

* Scott Dixon qualified a season-best third. His previous best was fourth at Kansas and Milwaukee.


DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Energizer, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "To win the pole at Texas says a lot about the Target guys and the job they do building the car. The regulations are so tight now that it's all about the details. The cars are so similar. It's all about how the guys build the car and the changes they make. The team makes a great car and it's my job in qualifying is not to screw it up. If the car is fast enough, you're looking good. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. It's a tough, long and demanding race."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified second): "It was a pretty good run; we just weren't quick enough over four laps and were a tenth (of a second) off. We always treat qualifying as a the first race of the weekend, so it's always good to go for the pole. It's a long race and I believe we'll have a strong race car, which is the most important thing. The night race is always spectacular. I've had some good results here, so I always look forward to coming back."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified fourth): "I put the pedal to the metal, but it was just one of those days where there was not much happening. It's too bad because we have a quick car, and we didn't qualify as fast as I thought we would. But we'll move on to tomorrow and the important thing is that it's a long race, and we have a really good car. The fastest car is not always the winner at Texas, I've won from the pole, and I've won from third place. Overall, I'm happy to be starting in the second row considering last week's qualifying (Castroneves started last after crashing during qualifying.) Tomorrow night will be a challenge because a lot of people will be close to one another on the track, but hopefully everyone will be smart at the beginning and it will be a good clean race. It will be a long tough race, but it's always lots of fun here at Texas."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola, qualified fifth): "The car felt really good as soon as I went out. We made a few small changes to the car for the qualifying run that were helpful. We are trying to have as many options for the Boost Mobile/Motorola car as we can. I wish we could've held on to the pole, but I think we are going to be really competitive tomorrow night."

MARIO MORAES (No. 5 KV Racing Technology/Votorantim, qualified sixth): "The KV Racing Technology team has worked really hard on the No. 5 car for the ovals and I think the hard work has paid off in our last four qualifying attempts. We spent yesterday working on our race setup. Today in practice we concentrated on the qualifying setup. We had a good qualifying run today and I think we will have a good car for the race tomorrow."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, qualified seventh): "We you look at qualifying, we did the same time that we did on our own earlier in the day in practice. We're still not quite where we need to be, but we're looking for areas where we can improve. You can see where the big teams were able to make a big jump from what they ran in practice, and over time we'll figure those things out. The National Guard Panther Racing car is certainly good for the race, we've rolled off the truck here very competitive, and that's what we need to do. We still don't have our first win of the season and we're trying desperately for that. This is going to be a very, very competitive race, and we're in pretty reasonable shape."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified eighth): "I'm content with were we qualified tonight. We didn't put a heavy focus on the qualifying set up for the No. 26 car and during our run we had a problem with the roll bar. I had to make adjustments every lap, which I think cost us some time. Overall not bad for the Venom boys, I think we'll be competitive and make our way through traffic without problems. I look forward to the race."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, qualified ninth): "This is obviously a very special oval. It's an exciting place; I really love it. On the banking you feel like Spiderman. I have raced on three total (ovals) until now, and this is definitely up there. I think we had a good run. You always want more as a driver. I pushed the pedal so far that I think I almost bent it. I think we can be happy and I look forward to a fun race tomorrow with a good setup. In qualifying we just stayed on the white line. I hit the pedal hard. I was flat, flat, flat. There was no more in the car so we can be happy. I got the maximum out of it. Every time I am in the car, I learn. I like this four-lap average format. I think you can really make a difference on your out lap if you are aggressive out of pit lane and flat straight away. It's good fun."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, qualified 10th): "I told my engineer Jeff Britton if we could get the No. 20 Menards/Johns Manville car to run 213 mph that I'd be happy. We hadn't run in the 213 range on any runs in practice yet. I'm happy with our qualifying effort of 213.435 mph average so it was a pretty go run for us. It's an improvement to where we qualified from Kansas and we're trying to get better all the time."


The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 6 with the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 9 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 Iowa 100 on June 20 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. on June 22 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Mario Moraes , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , KV Racing Technology