Dario Franchitti recovered from an off-course adventure Saturday with a last-minute run to the pole position that ended a troublesome day in which two drivers were hospitalized during preparations for Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Franchitti knocked Ryan Briscoe out of P1 with a late lap of 1:16.7987 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara-Honda. Franchitti and Briscoe are involved in a close points race with Scott Dixon, who failed to make the Fast Six session and will start 10th in Sunday's race.
The day got off to a dangerous start as several drivers slid off course during the morning practice session. Two drivers, Will Power and Nelson Philippe, were taken to a nearby hospital after their cars collided on a particularly dangerous blind turn.
Power was kept overnight at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with two broken vertebra and a concussion. Philippe was being treated for a compound fracture of his left leg and a concussion.
The accident brought questions about safety in Turn 3A, a blind right-hander at the crest of a hill. A flagger is seen in the video replay, but track and IndyCar officials said it wasn't clear if the lights before the turn were illuminated.
“I think we need to look at the safety over here and what can be done differently with spotting or whatever,” Briscoe said. “Turn 3 is a dangerous corner.”
Philippe had spun and was disabled sideways in the racing groove. E.J. Viso topped the hill and barely clipped the nose of Philippe's car. Seconds later, Power topped the hill at speed and slammed into Philippe's car.
"It's a very fast and tough corner, and it's blind, too," said Viso, who was uninjured. "I came over the hill and just saw something green. I knew it was Nelson, but I was going through so fast. I just went to avoid him, but it's so tough. I didn't see much by the time I had to try and avoid the car."
Franchitti also went off course during the final session, but recovered and topped Briscoe's lap with his flyer near the end of the Fast Six session.
“That was pretty interesting,” Franchitti said. “I had to back it down in order to go faster (after the run off course). I had to slow down and bring my braking points. … I've been off in the dirt there a few times in my life.”
Following Franchitti and Briscoe will be Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti, who looked strong throughout Saturday's sessions. Fellow Andretti Green driver Hideki Mutoh will start fifth, with Graham Rahal sixth, Tony Kanaan seventh, Franck Montagny eighth, Mike Conway ninth and Dixon 10th.
1. Dario Franchitti, Ganassi, 1m16.7987s
2. Ryan Briscoe, Penske, 1m16.8485s
3. Helio Castroneves, Penske, 1m16.8702s
4. Marco Andretti, Andretti Green, 1m17.0524s
5. Hideki Mutoh, Andretti Green, 1m17.2055s
6. Graham Rahal, Newman/Haas/Lanigan, 1m17.3885s
7. Tony Kanaan, Andretti Green, 1m16.9900s
8. Franck Montagny, Andretti Green, 1m17.0840s
9. Mike Conway, Dreyer & Reinbold, 1m17.0895s
10. Scott Dixon, Ganassi, 1m17.2247s
11. Danica Patrick, Andretti Green, 1m17.6145s
12. Dan Wheldon, Panther, 1m17.6782s
13. EJ Viso, HVM, 1m17.9180s
14. Mario Moraes, KV, 1m17.4730s
15. Robert Doornbos, HVM, 1m18.1095s
16. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Foyt, 1m17.6401s
17. Oriol Servia, Luczo Dragon, 1m17.6552s
19. Justin Wilson, Coyne, 1m18.3353s
20. Richard Antinucci, 3G, 1m17.7500s
21. Ed Carpenter, Vision, 1m18.2413s
22. Milka Duno, Dreyer & Reinbold, 1m23.6185s