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Castroneves flies in Fontana

The story isn't so much who will start at the front of the grid, but rather who will start at the back. Tony Kanaan, who needs a fifth-place finish or better on Sunday to clinch the IRL IndyCar Series championship, pulled his car out of Saturday's qualifying session after it misfired during his warm-up laps. He never made a qualifying run, and will start in the back row of the 22-car field

"There are days like this," Kanaan said. "We hadn't had one all year, so I can't complain. Honestly, I'm not disappointed. We just need to keep our spirits up. This is racing. Thank God it happened now. I'd be much more upset if it had happened tomorrow."

Minutes after Kanaan and his crew pulled the No. 11 Andretti Green Racing Honda-powered Dallara behind the wall, Helio Castroneves knocked Scott Dixon off the top spot with a lap of 33.1067 seconds - 217.479 mph - and secured the pole position for the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Toyota-powered Dallara.

"In our practice session this morning, I did a lap of 217.2," Castroneves said. "I wasn't sure if I got a draft or not. Later, I did a lap of 216.6. I was pretty confident that I would be right around that area. When I saw 217.4, I thought, 'OK, I caught him. Bring it in. That means I'm P1.'"

Castroneves' lap led a 1-2-3-4 sweep for Toyota, the best moment for the manufacturer since Sam Hornish Jr. won the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February. Honda has dominated the season, winning 13 consecutive races and 10 poles since the opener.

Following the Castroneves-Dixon front row were Toyotas driven by Sam Hornish Jr. and Darren Manning. However, Manning crashed on his second lap and was taken to a nearby hospital for a precautionary examination on his back. If he's able to race Sunday, Manning will join Kanaan at the back of the starting grid.

Kanaan comes into Sunday's race, the next-to-last of the season, 75 points ahead of team-mate Dan Wheldon. A finish of fifth or better will clinch the title before the season finale October 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. Some observers, including Wheldon, think Kanaan's problems in qualifying won't make a difference in the race.

"This race is 400 miles long," Wheldon said. "You have plenty of pitstops. He'll be up to the front in no time, and hopefully I will be, too."

Kanaan circled the track on his warm-up with a sick-sounding engine before pulling back on to the pit road. His crew worked on the engine before the team declared that Kanaan would not make a qualifying attempt. It ended a rough day for AGR, which has dominated the season and often puts all four cars among the top 10 starting positions.

This time, Bryan Herta was the best AGR qualifier in ninth. Dario Franchitti was 10th, while Wheldon posted the 14th-fastest lap of the day, more than a half-second behind Castroneves' pole-winning lap and nearly four-tenths behind Dixon.

"It's about time they had some problems," Dixon said with a smile.

The top Honda was Adrian Fernandez's No. 5 Fernandez Racing Honda/Panoz G Force at fifth on the grid. He was followed by Vitor Meira, Buddy Rice and A.J. Foyt IV, who suddenly has found speed. Prior to his sixth-place start last month at Chicagoland, Foyt had not started higher than 14th.

"We've got a good thing going on these mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks," Foyt said. "We've taken what we learned in Chicago here. We're running all right. The wind came up after the first practice, and the team realized that and made all the right moves to make the car better for qualifying. The team has come together a little bit and I've come around a little bit. It's all coming together now."

At 11th, Ed Carpenter was the top Chevrolet qualifier.

Dixon, the second driver out on the track, held P1 for nearly the entire qualifying session with his lap of 216.301 mph. Minutes after Dixon's run, Manning, his team-mate, spun and hit the SAFER barrier between turns one and two, apparently when the nose of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota/G Force was pushed down by a gusty 20 mph westerly wind.

"I think the same thing happened to him that happened to me," Dixon said of being hooked by the wind heading in to turn two. "Unfortunately, he didn't catch it. It just knocks you right down into the white line."

The pole was Castroneves' fourth of the season and the only ones for Toyota. He stands fourth in points behind Kanaan, Wheldon and Rice.

"Since yesterday, I knew we were strong," Castroneves said. "Today, everybody changed engines, especially the Hondas. I thought we did have a good chance."

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