The stage is set for a dramatic encore to last year's at times controversial and often entertaining Honda Indy Toronto, the tenth round of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Dario Franchitti and Will Power exchanged the top spot at the end of qualifying, before Franchitti prevailed by 0.0247 of a second for his third pole in a row and fourth at Toronto (1997, 1998, 2009).
“Not bad, 15 years since the first one! Man, that felt good!” Franchitti said. “The (Firestone) reds have so much grip, so if I could put the lap together, it would be was great.”
The last two races have ended in DNFs for Franchitti, an accident at Milwaukee and an engine failure before green at Iowa now shuffling him back to eighth in the championship, 70 points behind points leader Power.
Power, whose 2011 Toronto was compromised after contact with the eventual winner, felt relieved to get a front row starting position when it appeared the Hondas had the measure of Chevrolets in qualifying. Four Hondas made the Firestone Fast Six.
“I'm very happy,” he admitted. “I don't know where the time came from, but I've never had to dig so deep. We don't have the outright pace, but we'll take the front row.”
Power was fortunate to make the Fast Six to begin with, as late in the second round of qualifying IndyCar ruled Takuma Sato had held him up. Sato's two fastest laps were withdrawn in a penalty, and Power offered his opinion on the situation.
“It's up to his bloody team to tell him,” he said. “I don't know if he came out of the pits or what, but it didn't help him, because he gets a penalty.”
Row two features the two drivers involved in yesterday's pit lane accident that injured crewmembers, Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais. Wilson, a former Toronto polesitter, equals his best start of 2012 (Long Beach) although it's his first time actually making the Fast Six (was promoted to third by Chevrolet engine change grid penalties at Long Beach). Bourdais, meanwhile, back for the first time since Detroit, posted both his and Dragon Racing's best start of the season.
“It was great – the guys have done such a great job working away at it,” Wilson said after a fraught Friday. “I was hoping we could get on pole, but just missed it on the last couple laps. That's how it goes, and we have a good car for tomorrow.”
Bourdais was more enthusiastic with some interesting one-liners. He drives the TrueCar/McAfee No. 7 for the Dragon team.
“Since the beginning of season it has been such a struggle, plus we didn't need the extra drama (yesterday). Not bad for a bunch of cripples – that's what they said!” Bourdais said, somewhat in jest given the injuries sustained weren't serious. “They were walking on a leg and a half. But man, for less than a tenths, .012 or something, come on. You wish you had just gone to the bathroom before. That's what makes the series so competitive.”
Honda runners Scott Dixon and Alex Tagliani completed the Fast Six.
No Andretti Autosport cars made the Fast Six, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe just missing out, although Hinchcliffe is one of three, along with Tagliani and Simona de Silvestro, to face a 10 grid spot penalty for an engine change. Simon Pagenaud, too, also missed out on the top six. The aforementioned Sato qualified 11th, which, despite his penalty, equals his best qualifying performance of the season.
A very top-heavy group two in the first round in qualifying saw Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and the three KV Racing Technology drivers all eliminated. Servia, though, has finished fourth, fifth and fourth from 27th, 16th and 20th on the grid in the last three ABC-televised races for Panther DRR; Sunday's race in Toronto is also on ABC.
Race coverage begins live at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday on ABC.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 59.3510s
2. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy 59.3757s + 0.0247s
3. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 59.4506s + 0.0996s
4. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Chevy 59.4721s + 0.1211s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 59.5140s + 0.1630s
6. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Honda 59.5616s + 0.2106s
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy 59.4829s Round 2
8. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy 59.5476s Round 2
9. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy 59.5958s Round 2
10. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 59.6650s Round 2
11. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 59.8197s Round 2
12. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 59.8966s Round 2
13. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 1m00.0718s Group 1
14. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy 59.9888s Group 2
15. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m00.1557s Group 1
16. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR DW12-Chevy 1m00.0004s Group 2
17. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy 1m00.4508s Group 1
18. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy 1m00.1207s Group 2
19. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 1m00.5440s Group 1
20. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy 1m00.2043s Group 2
21. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 1m00.6709s Group 1
22. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 1m00.2199s Group 2
23. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy 1m01.0333s Group 1
24. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy 1m00.6145s Group 2
25. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy 1m02.5280s Group 1