Dario Franchitti scored his first official pole of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, 27th of his career, in Friday's qualifying for the 2012 Milwaukee IndyFest. Franchitti also started on pole in Long Beach, but that came after a smattering of engine change penalties that demoted five of the top six qualifiers – all Chevrolets – which changed engines in advance of the race and incurred a 10-spot grid penalty.
Franchitti was the 22nd driver on track and beat prior polesitter Justin Wilson by a full half mph over the two-lap qualifying average. After struggling in practice (11th and 18th), Franchitti went a different direction with his qualifying setup and it worked. The Scotsman clocked in at 168.737mph for his two-lap average.
“I am very pleased as much as I am surprised, that's quite a turnaround from practice,” said the 2011 Milwaukee polesitter and race winner. “Practice is one thing, qualifying is another and then there is the race. For as warm as it it people are fighting the car and everyone wants the same line.”
Wilson, who qualified second, is the fastest of seven drivers who are in the same boat as the Chevrolet drivers at Long Beach – with an unapproved engine change, they're all going back 10 positions. The Texas winner will line up in 12th.
“The confidence has helped a lot,” Wilson said, who still feels bullish about his car's race setup. “I feel like we've made some progress in understanding this car and what it's looking for, so we'll keep chipping away at it and making the car better and better. I'm having a lot of fun. Qualifying is great, we'll just keep our heads down, keep working on it.”
Actual second starter after Wilson's penalty is Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has his best starting position of 2012 for Andretti Autosport in the race which team boss Michael Andretti is promoting.
The remainder of the top five is Rubens Barrichello, his best start thus far in 2012 and therefore his IZOD IndyCar Series career, Helio Castroneves, and early polesitter E.J. Viso in the second of three KV Racing Technology cars. Barrichello is hoping to at least make it past the first lap after a mechanical failure at the green in Detroit, and a failure to start last race in Texas. Tony Kanaan completes the KV trio in the top six.
The remainder penalized start 14th (Will Power, from fourth), 17th (Josef Newgarden), 19th (Ryan Briscoe), 21st (Scott Dixon), 24th (Takuma Sato) and 25th (Mike Conway). Conway's penalty is essentially a wash as he was slowest of the 25 qualifiers anyway – Simona de Silvestro outqualified him in her HVM Racing Lotus.
A lot of drivers commented on a lack of front grip and added how quickly the tires should fall off, many expecting the track to be at most a one and a half groove racetrack. Saturday's race goes green at 12:30 p.m. local time (CT) on ABC.
Pos Driver Team/Car Speed
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 168.737
2. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 168.287
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy 167.911
4. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy 167.361
5. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy 166.899
6. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy 166.763
7. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 166.699
8. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy 166.066
9. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy 166.031
10. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy 165.915
11. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 165.726
12. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 165.369
13. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy 165.312
14. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 165.285
15. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy 164.893
16. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy 164.321
17. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 164.198
18. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Honda 163.866
19. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Chevy 163.516
20. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 162.020
21. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 161.079
22. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR DW12-Chevy 160.375
23. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy 160.308
24. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 160.115
25. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 159.794