14 April 2012
Briscoe tops qualifying, Franchitti starts first
Ryan Briscoe won pole position for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ahead of Penske team mate Will Power, but Dario Franchitti will start the race in front.
Ryan Briscoe and Will Power once again demonstrated the dominant form of the Chevrolet engines in qualifying, topping the Firestone Fast Six pole shootout qualifying round at Long Beach on Saturday afternoon - but knowing they'll start the race itself from much further back.
"It's huge ... To get the pole around this track is pretty satisfying," he said. "Now we have to come through the field and see if we can get a podium or a win. I just want to go out and drive the wheels off this thing.
"Last year we started 12th, and through strategy ended up leading a lot of laps in the race," he recalled. "So we're going to look at all of that. It's going to be tough - it's a really hard track to pass on, so we're going to have to do our best and see what we can do to get to the front."
Power - usually dominant on road courses - admitted that he had been beaten fair and square by Briscoe this weekend. "It was a battle in the Fast Six for sure, that was everything I had and we threw down a mega lap," he said. "Days like tomorrow will end up being really important for the championship, just trying to get as many points as possible and work hard at strategy."
While Briscoe pockets the $10,000 prize cheque and claims the championship bonus point for winning pole after setting a new course record time of 1:08.6089s on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit, the ten-place grid penalties that all Chevrolet-powered cars will have to serve means that neither man will start the race itself in the top ten, but Briscoe was keen to look on the bright side.
Instead, the front row will consist of Dario Franchitti and Josef Newgarden, with Franchitti rebounding from what looked like being a poor form at Long Beach in the earlier practice sessions to end up as the only Honda-powered driver to make it into the final six.
"To make the Firestone Fast Six was good," agreed a relieved Franchitti. "We knew where we'd be starting regardless of what time we did, but we kind of wanted to earn it. We didn't quite have it in the car. So we'll go back tomorrow and we'll see what happens."
Series rookie Newgarden narrowly missed out on joining him in the final six after putting his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car into a stunning seventh place in round 2, having previously topped his round 1 group ahead of such luminaries as Power, Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"We wanted to qualify out front outright," said Newgarden, who admitted to being "bummed" at missing out on the Fast Six. "I think the coolest thing for us is each time we qualify, we qualify better."
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