Dario Franchitti earned his first PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season - and the seventh of his IndyCar career - as the series' two leading teams again showed their might in qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

Having seen Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick take testing honours on Thursday night, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske put the interlopers firmly in their place as Franchitti headed Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves on the qualifying timesheets. The Scot posted a four-lap average of 214.513mph on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval as the top four drivers in the championship recorded runs in the same bracket.

It is Franchitti's second pole at Texas Motor Speedway, having taken his first IndyCar Series pole there in 2004, but his first in the competition since the finale of his title-winning campaign at Chicagoland Speedway in Sept. 2007.

"To win the pole at Texas says a lot about the Target guys and the job they do building the car," Franchitti admitted, "The regulations are so tight now that it's all about the details. The cars are so similar, so 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."

Briscoe will start alongside Franchitti in the Bombardier Learjet 550k after a four-lap average of 214.413mph, the Australian recording his best start at Texas but his third straight front row appearance in the 2009 campaign.

"It was a pretty good run, but we just weren't quick enough over four laps and were a tenth off," the Penske driver commented, "We always treat qualifying as 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, and I've had some good results here, so I always look forward to coming back."

Points leader and defending race winner Dixon took third, remarkably his best qualifying result of the season, bettering fourth at both Kansas and Milwaukee, while Castroneves completes row two after bouncing back from the error that left him at the back of the pack in Milwaukee a week ago.

"I put the pedal to the metal, but it was just one of those days where there was not much happening," the Brazilian sighed, "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, but tomorrow night will be a challenge because a lot of people will be close to one another on the track. Hopefully, everyone will be smart at the beginning and it will be a good clean race."

Patrick proved to be best of the rest and will start fifth, sharing row three with KVRT's Mario Moraes. The Andretti Green Racing star had been one of the first cars on track, and held top spot for a while, but remains confident for Saturday's race under the TMS floodlights.

"The car felt really good as soon as I went out," Patrick reported, "We made a few small changes to the car for the qualifying run that were helpful, but we are trying to have as many options 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."

Moraes paid tribute to KVRT's ongoing development on its oval set-up as he managed to keep Wheldon at bay. The Briton was frustrated not to have been able to repeat his Thursday night form as he starts Panther Racing's bid for a sixth Texas win from the inside of row four.

"We did the same time that we did on our own earlier in the day in practice, and we're still not quite where we need to be, but we're looking for areas where we can improve," Wheldon revealed, "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 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, but this is going to be a very, very competitive race, and we're in pretty reasonable shape."

Marco Andretti, who ran strongly for AGR in 2008, will line up alongside Wheldon, with leading rookie Robert Doornbos and Ed Carpenter completing the top ten. The Dutchman was particularly pleased with his effort, which left him three places ahead of Newman/Haas/Lanigan team-mate Graham Rahal and six clear of closest rookie rival Raphael Matos.

"This is obviously a very special oval - it's an exciting place and I really love it," he commented, "On the banking, you feel like Spiderman. I have raced on three ovals now, and this is definitely up there.

"I think we had a good run. You always want more as a driver, and I pushed the pedal so far that I think I almost bent it, but I think we can be happy and I look forward to a fun race tomorrow. We just stayed on the white line, and I hit the pedal hard - I was flat, flat, flat. There was no more in the car, so we can be happy."

Rahal, having annexed two front row spots this year, was only twelfth fastest, and will start jut ahead of Conquest's Alex Tagliani and owner/driver Sarah Fisher, who returned to the series with 14th spot. Further back, AGR veteran Tony Kanaan was only 16th fastest, admitting little other than frustration at being slow.

Tomas Scheckter, AJ Foyt and Jaques Lazier - all either returning to the series or embarking on stints with new teams - were 18th, 22nd and 24th fastest respectively, while Ryan Hunter-Reay's recent travails continued as he proved able only to put the second Vision Racing entry on the back row alongside Lazier's Team 3G car.


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