Dario Franchitti saved his best for last to secure pole for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway on Saturday.

Franchitti's final lap in the Firestone Fast Six shoot-out earned him the PEAK Performance Pole Award with a lap of 1 minute 16.7987 seconds around the 2.303-mile circuit during the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shoot-out.

"Today I had a pretty good car," said the Chip Ganassi Racing man. "In a couple corners I had to commit to them and hang on, but in general the car was really good. I'm very happy to get the Target car on the pole for the race."

Franchitti, the only driver to participate in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions this season, will be joined on the front row by Ryan Briscoe, who had set the bar early in the third and final qualifying session with a lap of 1m 16.8485s in the #6 Team Penske car.

"I had a pretty bad practice this morning; I spent more time in the dirt than on the tarmac. But I had a feeling we were in decent shape going into qualifying. The car felt good from the get-go and got better and I was right back into the groove," Briscoe noted.

"I felt confident going through the session with our strategy on tyres. I could have gone quicker in the Firestone Fast Six, but I just didn't get a clean lap together and I had a locking issue with the brakes.

"I was frustrated I couldn't get the pole, but Dario was really quick and he certainly did a good job on used reds."

Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti will start on row two while Hideki Mutoh and Graham Rahal round out the top six.

"Qualifying was pretty exciting today, and I think the race shouldn't be much different," said Castroneves. "I'm a bit disappointed as I thought the Team Penske car was better than third place, and I'm sure Ryan feels the same way. During the first session, we had a problem with our fuel pressure which the team was able to fix for Q2. Then in Q2, we had an issue with the throttle, which they were able to fix for Q3, so I guess taking all of this into consideration we did ok. The important thing is that the car is great and I'm feeling confident going into tomorrow's race."

"It wasn't that bad of a qualifying effort for the Venom boys," Andretti added. "We're getting there. We're just learning how to use the red tyres to our advantage."

Points' leader Scott Dixon will line up tenth on the grid, behind Tony Kanaan, Franck Montagny, who is making his IndyCar Series debut this weekend, and Mike Conway.

"Qualifying was pretty dismal, actually. I'm really frustrated. We've been chasing a brake problem from this morning," Dixon explained. "Every time you really start to push the car and you go to brake later, we would lock the rears brakes. We could see that there was something going on, we're just not sure what it is.

"The saving grace was Dario winning the pole which is fantastic. It helps us keep some points off those Penske's. We'll have to go off strategy tomorrow and try something a bit different. Hopefully we can drag something out of the race and then have a good run on the last ovals."

Meanwhile Penske Racing's Will Power and Conquest Racing's Nelson Philippe were both hospitalised after an incident during the morning practice session.

Philippe's #34 iDrive Green entry for Conquest Racing spun at the exit of Turn 3a - blind cresting the 153-foot elevation portion of the corner - and came to a stop on the left side of the racetrack. E.J. Viso, driving the #13 PDVSA HVM Racing car, attempted to avoid the car but clipped the front of Philippe's car with his left-rear tyre. Power, also cresting the hill, couldn't avoid the debris and hit Philippe's car.

Both drivers were admitted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Power suffered compression fractures of the L2 and L4 (lumbar) vetebrae and was scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging.

Philippe is scheduled for surgery to repair an open fracture to his left foot. Both drivers suffered concussions.


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