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."