Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe will start on the front row for Sunday's Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer after the line-up had to be based on entrant points.
Although it didn't rain at the track on Saturday, PEAK Performance Pole Qualifying had to be cancelled as the heavy downpours on Friday, and earlier in the week, caused persistent weepers in several locations on the 0.875-mile oval. Ironically, qualifying hadn't had to be cancelled since last June's race at Iowa....
Despite missing the opening round of the season, and having a nightmare weekend in Milwaukee, Castroneves' #3 car leads the entrant points thanks to two wins and a second by the Brazilian and, crucially, the sixth place at St Petersburg by fill-in driver Will Power.
"I have to thank Will because those points definitely kept me in the front of the pits and now gave me the pole position at Iowa," the Indy 500 winner noted, "Unfortunately for the fans, they didn't get to see the excitement of qualifying but, fortunately for me, I end up getting a great situation here with a good starting position. Now that we have a Team Penske front row, we'll go for the win tomorrow."
Briscoe, the leader in the driver points, is second in entrant points and, as he did with pit position in the recent Texas round, misses out to his team-mate because of Power's contribution. The Australian will take heart, however, from the fact that the driver who started first did not win either of the events where qualifying was rained out in 2008.
"Obviously, we'd much rather be out there qualifying, so it's unfortunate," he admitted, "The good thing is that we're up there in the points and get the front row start and, hopefully, that will help us tomorrow. I felt good for qualifying, like Team Penske had a good shot for the pole. It's so close at the front that it's hard to say, but hopefully they can get the track in good shape for tonight and tomorrow."
Power's contribution was marked by Castroneves inviting his stand-in to accept the PEAK Performance Pole Award with him.
"This was all Helio's idea - he's a great guy and I always like to help out," the Australian revealed, "Starting on the pole here is really important, so it's great to see the two Team Penske cars on the front row. I love working with this team, and I have two great team-mates. We all work well together."
Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti will start third and fourth, respectively, with Andretti Green's Danica Patrick fifth. The reigning series champion was frustrated as he felt that he had a shot at pole, but accepted that, even without rain on Saturday, the situation with the weepers was difficult to judge.
"It's tough, as we should have been fairly decent," he sighed, "The car wasn't too bad in the run, but there was a fair bit of water on the track. The cautiousness there is the more cars you run, the more water you draw onto the track, so the guys in the back [of the line] were going to have a tougher time, and you could certainly crash your car. I think it was a tough decision for [IRL president of competition and racing operations] Brian [Barnhart], but I think he made the right one."