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Kanaan on pole for Vegas finale

15 October 2011

Tony Kanaan was thrilled to claim pole position for the IZOD IndyCar World Championship race at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

"It feels awesome! It has been awhile," he said. "I'm extremely happy. I can't thank the GEICO-KV guys enough."

It's a return to form after a disappointing outing at Kentucky two weeks ago, and Kanaan quipped that "I guess I've got to do more Ironmans on my weekends off" after claiming pole with a two-lap time of 50.0582s, the equivalent of an average speed of 222.078mph.

He'll be joined on the front row by Oriol Servia who has been second in all of the sessions so far this weekend, and who missed pole by just 0.0037s.

"We got a two today so hopefully we get a one tomorrow!" said an energised Servia. "We were up there in every session and it just shows the car was good. Front row is the best place to start for a race as crazy as this one is going to be so I am very happy with our position and I think we have a great shot at it on Sunday."

Fresh from victory in a thrilling finish at Kentucky, Ed Carpenter was delighted to claim third place on the grid of the season finale for Sarah Fisher Racing.

"It felt good out there. I was really confident in our race car and qualifying car yesterday in practice," he said. "But we had a lot of issues in practice today and really didn't have a good idea of where we were going to be in qualifying. I almost wondered if we'd even be top ten after the first practice session today. I feel pretty good now knowing that the car still does have speed because I was worried we were maybe losing a little speed, but it came back and we ran about what we thought we could run, so that's good."

Things were less promising for the two drivers aiming to clinch the IndyCar championship at Vegas, Will Power and Dario Franchitti. After middling practice performances, they ended up managing only 17th and 18th positions on the grid for Sunday and will start alongside each other on the ninth row,

"My lap, my weekend - I don't know what to tell you," said Franchitti. "From the moment my car rolled off the truck it's been slow. If there's any silver lining it's the fact that Will's back there with me.

"Will and I were joking that you couldn't have scripted it better," he added. "It's definitely not ideal starting this far back, but we will do our best to move to the front."

Coming into the race 18pts in the lead, Franchitti should win the title if he can finish in the top three, while Power needs to win the race if Franchitti finishes fourth through seventh. "I'm glad I don't have to make up those 18 points," said Dario, who admitted to being "pleasantly surprised" when Power struggled on his qualifying lap as much as Dario had done.

"We're still just trying to get more out of the Verizon car," said Power for his part. "That's definitely not the result we wanted out of qualifying but we know that this is going to be a pack race and hopefully we can use that to our advantage and move forward in the race on Sunday.

"We need to win and we have some time between now and then to make sure we are getting the most out of the car."

Further back down the grid, James Jakes was unable to set a qualifying lap, following his fiery crash during the early practice session on Friday afternoon.

"Me and Alex just went into turn 1 and 2, drafting into one another," explained Jakes, referring to fellow English driver Alex Lloyd. "I was going into 2 and something broke in the left corner, and at those speeds it moves you so far off the track. When I hit the wall, the impact on the fire was pretty instant, and it went all the way down the back of my suit, and I tried to stop a lot sooner but the brakes were gone, and I just had to wait until the car stopped and I had my seatbelt on and get out of there."

It's unclear whether Jakes will even be able to race on Sunday given the state of the wrecked car and also condition of the back-up chassis rented from KV Racing Technology-Lotus. "We've got the back up, but it's in bits and pieces, so we'll see how bad this one is and get something up on there in the next day,: said Dale Coyne.

Dan Wheldon was 28th fastest, but will start from the back row as part of the conditions for his participation in the $5m prize challenge. Even so, he was disappointed by his pace in Friday's sessions.

"We don't understand why we're so far off the pace. Quite frankly, with the pace were at, we can't stay up in the draft," he said, worried about his chances of being in the running for the $5m jackpot. "There's something we're missing. The team is working hard, but unfortunately Bowers & Wilkins at Magnolia/ William Rast and Curb-Big Machine Records car is not very quick right now."

He'll be joined at the back by Buddy Rice, whose times were deleted after the session after he dipped below the white line during his run. EJ Viso was also unable to post qualifying times, after a penalty for having an engine change following his blowup in Thursday practice.

"Unfortunately I will start at the back of the grid because we had to do a engine change which was considered unapproved under the rules," he confirmed. "I am not really concerned where we start. We have done this many times in the past, coming from the back to the front of the field. It is actually very exciting ... Hopefully, we can bring home a great result so we can close the season on a good note."

Full qualifying times and positions.


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