28 March 2010
Power takes pole in St Pete
Previous qualifying record holder Helio Castroneves, who missed the 2009 event while he fought his much-publicised tax wrangle, will share row three with Kanaan's team-mate Marco Andretti, while Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Ryan Briscoe in the '09 race, only just missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0014secs, and will start seventh alongside FAZZT Race Team's Alex Tagliani. KV Racing Technology's EJ Viso and Dreyer & Reinbold's Mike Conway round out the top ten.
"We're disappointed with seventh, and that means the IZOD team has a pretty strong effort going," RH-R admitted, "We missed out on making the Firestone Fast Six by just thousandths of a second and missed being in the top three by half-a-tenth. It's just ridiculously close, and that's the way I felt it would be, but we'll go out and do what we did in Brazil. We'll do a good solid race, the guys will do great stops and we'll work our way to the front. The Andretti cars are obviously strong; Marco and Tony are right up there with us, and that is good to see."
The notable casualty of qualifying was reigning champion Dario Franchitti, who failed to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six for the first time when he was knocked out in the first round. The Scot started from the pole for the season-opener in Brazil and was the only driver to participate in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions in '09, but will start 13th in the #10 Target Chip Ganassi entry, his lowest road/street course starting position since lining up 21st in 2005 at Infineon Raceway.
"We had a good run, and the car didn't slow down at all, but Ryan Briscoe had some problems of his own, and I caught him in turn eight and got held up," Franchitti commented, "That was unfortunate, as the guys made some great changes to the car, and we were pretty quick after the crash in practice yesterday."
Former race winner Graham Rahal, competing this weekend for Sarah Fisher Racing, will start a frustrated 16th after throwing all of his experience at the #67 car, but is three places ahead of Briscoe, who qualified 19th, the lowest starting spot of his IZOD IndyCar Series career on a road/street course.
"We were the first car to go out on red tyres and then we went to blacks, and it was really just bad timing," the Australian admitted, "The track got quite a bit quicker, and we needed to be on reds at the end of the session. It's a bit disappointing as the Team Penske car has been fast all weekend and we have a good car for the race, but we're going to be starting from farther back than we should be. We'll be all right. I have a great crew and the best race strategist there is. We just have to avoid any first-lap accidents, and we should be able to have a solid race."
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