Alex Tagliani has his second pole in as many years at the Texas Motor Speedway, with the Canadian the first driver outside of Team Penske or Target Chip Ganassi Racing to score an IZOD IndyCar Series pole in 2012.
Most drivers suffered a drop-off from the first to second timed laps, but Tagliani's Bryan Herta Autosport DW12-Honda had one of the smallest gaps between the two. A two-lap average of 215.691, a full half mph faster than his 2011 pole of 215.186 in the old car, netted BHA its first pole as an organization in the series.
“We were fourth in practice, so my engineer Todd (Malloy) said we had a shot,” Tagliani said. “Our car is so good now. I had a bet going on that I wasn't going to wear the cowboy boots, but I'd be so happy if I won the pole I'd wear them anyway!”
Behind the French Canadian in boots were a trio of cars from Chip Ganassi Racing – Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon. Franchitti stood on provisional pole while Rahal was among those to trend ahead before hitting a hard rev limiter.
“It went into the hard limiter, otherwise we would have been on pole,” Rahal said. “It was a fantastic job by all the Ganassi guys.”
Rahal has his best starting position of 2012 after a week in Detroit where he legitimately passed eight cars on track, improving from 17th (engine change and 10-spot grid penalty) to ninth at one point. Will Power, the highest Chevrolet qualifier in fifth, also reckoned he could have posted a pole speed had he not incurred a similar fate as Rahal.
“I just got a hard limiter, otherwise it would have been an unbelievable run,” Power said. “I couldn't believe the speed. With this aero package, that's what we wanted, was to put it in the drivers' hands.”
James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Mike Conway, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato completed the top 10.
Simona de Silvestro's Lotus was not the slowest qualifier as had been expected. JR Hildebrand had a mysterious issue based on adjustments his Panther Racing team made going into qualifying, and despite a 210mph warm-up lap, Hildebrand's two qualifying laps both dropped into the 202mph range. Hildebrand also said he had “a huge moment” in his qualifying run.
Rookie Josef Newgarden also had an unfortunate qualifying session, as his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team discovered an engine issue prior to running. Newgarden had been in the top five in practice earlier Friday.
Post-qualifying, the series announced one technical bulletin adjustment: "A rear wing wicker up to a maximum of 1/8 inch height and full span may be used." A downforce reduction had been brought into play prior to the weekend, but some drivers said their cars were harder to handle than previously.
IndyCar Series officials predicted that the change would return a little more than half of the downforce that had been removed earlier in the day. The cars are still expected to be short of the downforce required to run an entire lap flat.
Pos Driver Team/Car Speed
1. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Honda 215.691
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 215.646
3. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 215.554
4. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 215.331
5. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevy 215.116
6. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevy 214.920
7. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevy 214.701
8. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 214.458
9. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevy 214.424
10. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 214.196
11. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 214.082
12. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevy 214.060
13. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR DW12-Chevy 213.957
14. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevy 213.949
15. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevy 213.927
16. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevy 213.444
17. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevy 213.402
18. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 212.833
19. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 212.136
20. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevy 211.643
21. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 211.245
22. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Chevy 210.543
23. Simona de Silvestro HWM DW12-Lotus 204.066
24. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevy 202.596
25. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda