Franchitti takes third Toronto pole

On a day when all his title rivals struggled for speed and a clear track, Dario Franchitti firmly captured pole position for the IndyCar Series' first Toronto race

Franchitti takes third Toronto pole

A double pole winner at Toronto in his Champ Car days, Franchitti posted a best time of 1m01.0249s to emerge comfortably fastest in the Fast Six session, beating Will Power in the third Penske Dallara-Honda by more than two tenths of a second.

With Graham Rahal, Alex Tagliani and Mike Conway rounding out the top six, names like Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon were conspicuously absent from the sharp end of the grid.

For his part, Castroneves (Penske) exited his car in an agitated frame of mind after failing to make the final round of knockout qualifying, blaming Dixon for blocking his fast lap. Ganassi driver Dixon was nonplussed, noting that he had slowed to get a gap to the car in front of him and had not deliberately hampered his long-time rival.

"I was just reacting to Tagliani who slowed in front of me," he said. "It's tough to get a clear lap out there."

Franchitti only got one fast lap in the final round of qualifying but it was all he needed. The Ganassi team had done a bit of educated guesswork overnight after Friday found Franchitti ensconced in sixth on the practice time sheets.

"The guys worked really hard to improve the car overnight, but with the rain this morning we didn't get too much running," said Franchitti, who parked after spinning on his first lap in the monsoon conditions of practice.

"But the car was good out of the box. That lap I did in the Fast Six, I came in afterwards and said, basically, 'That's it. That was a hell of a lap. That was as good a lap as I've driven around here. If they can go quicker, let them have it because that's all she's got.'"

No one could go quicker and Franchitti had pole, but that did not mean Power, Tagliani and Conway in particular were disappointed with their performance. Power and Tagliani are both driving limited programmes but outperformed many of the series' top regulars.

"My car was good out of the box," said Power, "just like at Long Beach we didn't make any big changes. I love road courses and street circuits... and now I love ovals, they became much easier with Penske for some reason! I'm just doing my job."

"Will is out front of his two Penske team-mates," said Tagliani, "but he's in a Penske car. We're in the Conquest car, so we feel pretty good to qualify ahead of the Penske cars and a Ganassi car. That's the reality right now - when you come here, last minute like this with very limited running, you need to put everything on the line to try to do very well."

Indeed, Tagliani was fastest of all in round two of the qualifying session, but found the car a little lacking in the Fast Six.

"The car was really good I qualifying one and two" he said, "but we lost a little of the balance in the third round."

Similarly, although Conway made the top six for the second consecutive week, he could not quite match the faster cars in the final round.

"We definitely improved our car for today," said the Dreyer & Reinbold driver. "The pace was quite comfortable in each of the first two phases but the last one we weren't able to match the pace; we were lacking a bit of grip."

The other major team in trouble was Andretti Green Racing, which failed to get a single one of its four cars in the top 15 on the grid for the race its promotions arm runs. Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick will start on row nine while Tony Kanaan is 20th and Hideki Mutoh 22nd on a day when, apart from the fact that AGR cars finished one-two in the Indy Lights race, nothing went right for the team.

All but Mutoh hit the wall in the rainy morning practice, then Mutoh and Kanaan collected one another in qualifying and neither Andretti nor Patrick could get a handle on the track conditions following the rain.

Paul Tracy had similar problems. After posting a top six time out of the box yesterday morning, Tracy and the KV team struggled to keep up with the changing track conditions. Although he was quick in the morning rain, he battled persistent understeer in qualifying and failed to advance past the first round of knock-out qualifying by 0.0127s.

But it was a slightly better afternoon for Ryan Hunter-Reay, as he had his most competitive session for AJ Foyt's team yet and took 12th, although he felt he could have broken into the top ten had he not stalled in an escape road during round two.

Pos Driver Team Time 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m01.0249s 2. Will Power Penske 1m01.2851s 3. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m01.3301s 4. Justin Wilson Coyne 1m01.5157s 5. Alex Tagliani Conquest 1m01.6980s 6. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 1m02.0090s 7. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m01.4419s 8. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m01.4718s 9. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 1m01.5348s 10. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m01.7954s 11. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m01.8575s 12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 1m01.9680s 13. Mario Moraes KV 1m01.9704s 14. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 1m01.8681s 15. Paul Tracy KV 1m01.9730s 16. EJ Viso HVM 1m02.1577s 17. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 1m02.2138s 18. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 1m02.5839s 19. Ed Carpenter Vision 1m02.5907s 20. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 1m02.6556s 21. Dan Wheldon Panther 1m02.8411s 22. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 1m03.0413s 23. Richard Antinucci 3G 1m04.5132s 
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