KV Racing Technology's Takuma Sato took pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 race at Iowa Speedway with a stunningly fast performance in qualifying.
Sato was the only driver to put in two laps both of which were over 180mph, for an unbeatable two-lap average speed of 180.375mph. The only person to come close was Danica Patrick, who ran perhaps the best line of anyone in the entire session to post an average speed of 180.210mph. She said the car could have been even faster, and credited the changes that the Andretti Autosport team had made to the car since the first practice session earlier in the day.
Sato's team mate Tony Kanaan was the only other person to top 180mph in either of his laps, but his overall average was just short of that benchmark at 179.833mph. Kanaan was the second qualifier of the day and held the top spot for over half of the session. Unfortunately the final KV team mate EJ Viso was no where near this mark and will start from 19th place on the grid.
JR Hildebrand put up an average speed of 179.569mph on the board to take fourth place and line up alongside Kanaan on the grid for tomorrow's race, as he seeks to rebound from a disappointing early exit at Milwaukee that was uncomfortably reminiscent to his turn 4 mistake that cost him the Indianapolis 500 victory in May.
That meant that the grid made for a very interesting and atypical sight, with no Ganassi or Penske cars on the front two rows. The best of the Penskes was Will Power, who claimed fifth position on the starting grid alongside the fastest Ganassi, Power's chief title rival Dario Franchitti. The two were split by just 0.0001s in their qualifying time.
Dario said that he had been struggling with both front and rear end grip and also from understeer, and added that he felt that he and Scott Dixon might have been "greedy" in their approach to the qualifying session.
Dixon himself - the holder of the track speed record at Iowa - was the first car out on track in the session but he got seriously loose on his first timed lap and was lucky to save the car and set any time at all. Dixon afterwards described his car as "horrible" and correctly predicted that he would be starting very near the back of the grid for Saturday's race - it turned out to be 23rd place.
Other cars including those of Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson were struggling to hold a good low line on the short oval track, and finding that their cars were sliding a lot more than previous visits to Iowa Speedway.
Penske's Ryan Briscoe could only manage a midfield time and said that the team "had just missed it" when it came to set-up as he put in a two-lap average speed of 178.771mph for the 10th spot. This was confirmed by the lap of Helio Castroneves which left the Brazilian as the lowest-placed of the Penske stable in 13th position.