Franchitti wins pole for Iowa Corn 250
It was the second consecutive week that Franchitti has started on pole, and was the 28th of his Indy car career (passing Al Unser for seventh on the all-time list).
Results of the second practice session determined the fields for the 30-lap qualifying races. The top eight comprised Race 3, while Race 1 consisted of even-numbered positions in practice to determine the even-numbered spots in the starting lineup starting from 10th down. Race 3 followed the same format for odd-numbered cars.
Franchitti led Helio Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental car, to the start-finish line of the 0.894-mile track by 1.4671 seconds. It will be the second front-row start of the season and the fourth at Iowa Speedway for Castroneves, who won the opener at St. Petersburg.
Andretti, who topped the time chart in the two practice sessions, and Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe will be on Row 2.
Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader, will start on Row 3. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the winner last week at Milwaukee, will be on Row 4 with Scott Dixon.
Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal were the other heat race winners to qualifying ninth and 10th, respectively, but they'll incur 10-grid spot penalties for unapproved engine changes. Alex Tagliani and Josef Newgarden will take their spots on Row 5.
The field for the third heat that raced for the pole was the eight fastest cars from practice. Heat race one set the even-numbered starting positions from 10th to the end of the field; while the second heat race set the odd-numbered starting positions from ninth position to the back of the grid.
1:55 - 2:40 p.m. - Firestone Indy Lights practice
2:55 p.m. - Star Mazda qualifying
3:50 - 3:55p.m. - Systems check
5:05 p.m. - Star Mazda Iowa Speedway Foundation 100
6:40 p.m. - Firestone Indy Lights Sukup 100 (115 laps/100 miles), NBC Sports Network (Taped, 11:59 p.m. Saturday)
9 p.m. - Iowa Corn Indy 250 (250 laps/187.5 miles), NBC Sports Network (Live)
QUALIFYING RACES QUOTES:
DARIO FRANCHITI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We were struggling a little bit this morning with the Target car in race trim but we made it much better in the second session of practice. But the heat (race) the car stuck and we were able to put the Target car around the outside of Marco, kind of liked I watched T.K. (Tony Kanaan) do in the heat race before me. I got out in front and the car felt good - no troubles for the rest of the run with no real fall off till the end of the race. Physically it is a tough track so it will be an interesting race for us tomorrow night. But overall a very good day for the Target boys. Good to be starting up front here for sure."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): ""We really wanted to get the pole, but we were a little off on our gearing for the car. We can work on that for tomorrow - that's really the race that counts. We were pretty good, but we need to give ourselves a little more grip and we can be right there. The RC Cola car was fast all day, so we just need to tune on it a little bit to get back out front when it really means something. We can win it from there."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): "Honestly, the practice, it was a little bit more risky than actually the race because in the heat race, you really are taking chances and not knowing what other guys are doing, but you know I think if we had to do that again, we should go qualifying one lap or two laps, whatever, to determine where you're going to go for the heats, instead of just going 30 or 45 minutes with everybody out there. So I would have probably suggested, but other than that it was okay. Certainly, 30 laps I believe was enough, but it was getting tough out there. I was able to make a pass on Marco, but then there wasn't enough time to catch Dario, there was not that many cars out there so it was difficult to catch traffic and things like that. For the first time, it was positive in terms of a big lead. Certainly these are the things that we've got to do for the future. In the end of the day I'm happy that we tried (heats) and we will keep discussing and brainstorming all the possibilities so in the future, maybe we'll try different ovals, but for sure here it seemed different. I'm starting on the front row, and that's what I care about right now."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): ""I think we learned a little bit tonight. I'm actually glad, almost, that we had heat races this weekend because, with so little practice we had so little time to work on our race cars and (the heat races) gave us a good taste of what we are going to see tomorrow night. Obviously, the track conditions will be a bit different, but we learned a bit. It was nice to move the Go Daddy car up a couple of spots because it was tough to pass out there. Ryan (Briscoe) got a bunch of different runs on me, but it's so tough to hold the bottom of the racetrack and our car was working pretty decent up high. We were struggling off of Turn 2 and he was getting some good runs on us. That last lap I started really pushing up the track and my spotter told me Ryan was going high - I had to really try and get out of it; I feel bit bad there so, sorry to him for that. But overall, not a bad night and I'm happy to be starting on the outside of Row Two."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was kind of a mixed day. We struggled a little bit, we had some traffic in practice two which set the grid for the heat. We still made it to the top-eight which is what we needed to do. We still weren't real happy with the car so we kind of threw the kitchen sink at it for the heat race and we started on scuffs, six-lap tires, so it was kind of just feeling it out. It was okay, after 20 laps I felt pretty loose so we started to back up towards the end. The No. 10 car seemed to have a good handle on it so we'll look at their stuff tonight but all and all a pretty up-and-down day."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): ""It was evil. We took it as a practice run because we're starting last anyway because of the engine change. Obviously, we're not where we want to be yet. We're going to think about it over night and come back stronger tomorrow."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO /Mouser Electronics- KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Great job by the GEICO | Mouser guys. It's doesn't help getting a 10 grid (spot) penalty, but we will just have to battle from the back. We have a good car. It was nice having the 30-lap race so I can see how my car will react in the race tomorrow and I'm pleased with how it felt."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "Today was a big learning curve. We've never been here with this car; we didn't test here, so we just threw some things at it this morning and it was alright; we worked through it. We learned a lot in the first session, improved it in the second session and I think even in the third session we went a bit quicker, so those are really good things. If we keep progressing like this it really shows that we're a pretty strong team and can improve every session out there. I think we have a good car. We're hoping that tomorrow some people will fall off a little bit like in Milwaukee and that's going to play in our favor. You know if we have a solid car for a full stint, so we'll see. We're just working at it, progressing. I don't think we'll be able to make real passes at real speed, but if people are going to struggle that's where our chance is going to come. We're really going to be ready when that chance comes."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): " "For a rookie it was a great day because I could do a 30 lap mini race. I wasn't sure whether I had a car to win, but it was good to race Tagliani and Kanaan and learn the high and low lines. My car was a little loose in places, but I feel more confident now for the race tomorrow."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO-PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Iowa is a place that has provided me with a lot of satisfaction by giving me my first podium finish back in 2010. This race is going to be very challenging. I am starting from the back of the field as a result of a penalty given to us by INDYCAR because we changed the engine under the minimum mileage. This will also be a difficult race because of the change in the downforce rules. We are running a lot less downforce than in the past. Looking ahead, I have a lot of faith in the car that my crew is going to give me. So far I have had strong cars that have allowed me to fight hard in the races. That is what I am looking forward to doing tomorrow.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): ""It wasn't an easy day for us; quite difficult actually through the sessions and practice. We made good progress internally but we need a lot more speed. It won't be easy to make progress but surely we will move forward. We will gather all of the data tonight and be prepared for tomorrow. It was good to have a sprint race like this to get a better understanding of the car."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "That race is pretty much what I expected. Single file. Unless someone's car goes off in a stint, it will be very difficult to pass people. I thought the aero package we tested here was pretty good. But they (INDYCAR officials) changed the package last week for this weekend. I tried to make a move on (Mike) Conway in the low line early, and the car just got too loose. Later in the race we were as fast as the leaders but there was no way to close the gap. I hope it is more exciting on Saturday night than that heat race. We used to put on some good racing at Iowa before and I hope this new package doesn't hurt the racing here. We'll wait and see what happens in the 250-lap race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "Certainly, the car felt really strong. Now, we go into tomorrow night and let's hope we keep that momentum. We know we have a good race car. We'll start 20th so we know we have a lot of work ahead of us but we feel pretty good."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "We treated that as a test session and we did get the ABC Supply car more comfortable. We still need to work on some bits and get it more dialed in. It was not an easy day, but it sounds like others had similar things."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I was a little surprised by Graham to be honest. I'm just glad we didn't have an incident. He clearly had more speed though. He wanted to go low on the back straight. I had a slow start. It was a lot slower than we predicted when we took off. We just didn't get out of the hole very well. Luckily we were able to hold Viso on the outside. I got a good run on Graham early on. He wanted to go low when he saw I had a run on him. That was fine, so I chose the outside. The next thing I knew, when we got in the corner he was going straight up the race track in front of me. I thought we were going to hit the wall, and I don't know how we didn't. Luckily we didn't tear up any race cars. It's just one of those things. You're always learning new things about your competitors and how you can race people. That will be valuable information for tomorrow. (About his car for tomorrow): "We're going to have to work on our car quite a bit for tomorrow. We need to get a bit more speed. This heat race was only half distance compared to a race stint for us on a set of tires. We need to figure out how the car and tires will handle on the next half of the stint. If we can optimize the car and get a little more out of it we'll be fine for tomorrow. If we can hold the tire degradation tomorrow we'll be competitive."
KATHERINE LEGGE (No. 6 TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "The car was much better in the heat race than it was in practice today," continued Legge. "We had a really good test here recently, so we thought we would come back with a really good car for this weekend's race. Seemingly, it wasn't like that, but my crew are some of the best and worked really hard to correct that. We have a little bit of work left to do, but we made some progress and we look forward to tomorrow night. I am really just happy to have the opportunity that TrueCar and my other sponsors have provided. We hope to give them a great show."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "These heat races were a good chance for the Verizon Team Penske crew to get some racing under our belts and have a better understanding of what to expect during the race. I like the way the car feels and we are ready for a good performance in the race tomorrow."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske Chevrolet): ""The heat race was definitely a sprint race and I think we were able to learn some things about how the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish will perform in tomorrow's race. I felt like I had a good car, we were a little off on the gear ratio which was making the good runs a little difficult to complete. I think it will be a good race tomorrow, it felt like a couple of lanes opened up for good some racing. We are starting fifth and hopefully will have a good race."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda): "It was a reasonable day. Lots of learning, you know, everyone oval we've been on is quite different, so it's been interesting to see how it plays out each week. I liked the concept of the heat races. We were hoping to move forward a bit, but the car was loose during the heat race, so unfortunately we couldn't do all we wanted to do. But it was a good opportunity to see what the cars are like, and I think with a little fine tuning it could be a really exciting thing."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet, qualified third): "I think we had a pretty good day. We checked our first box off the list, which was making the fast-eight heat race. We treated the heat as a test session instead of an actual race. We found some things that might work for tomorrow night and we definitely found some things that didn't. We didn't race very impressive, but we kept our starting position of seventh. The Andretti Autosport crew was able to learn some things, which is good. We could have been more aggressive, but we felt like the big picture was to learn more for tomorrow night and that's what we did. Thanks to all of my guys for their hard work and also to DHL and Sun Drop."
JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I think we've got a good race car. I made a mistake on the start which cost us a few positions, but I know the Dale Coyne Racing guys have worked so hard, especially after the contact we had last week. The car has been good in practice, so hopefully we can move forward and make up for it tomorrow."
This means that cars 5, 11, 38 and 77 are now serving penalties in the starting line up for tomorrowâ€™s race.
While we donâ€™t expect any more changes, once engineers have finished looking over data, there may be so this list is not yet final.
Lineup (After Penalties)
Pursuant to Rule 15.6.1, Cars 5, 11, 38, and 77 penalized 10 grid spots.
Iowa Corn Indy 250 post-qualifying press conference
THE MODERATOR: In the second starting position for tomorrow's race, Helio, the heat race qualifying format, what did you think?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I like it. But I don't love it, as much as I like it, if it makes sense. No, just an internal joke between myself and Will Power and Ryan Briscoe. Hopefully we don't see that in the end.
No, I guess, you know, honestly, the practice, in practice it was a little bit more risky than actually the race, the heat race, because you really take a chance on not knowing what other guys are doing.
But, you know, I think if you had to do that again, maybe we should do a qualifying one lap or two laps, whatever, to determine where you're going to go for the heat, if it's 30 minutes or 45 minutes, everybody out there. So this is the only thing I would have probably suggest.
But other than that, you know, it was okay. Certainly 30 laps, I believe it was enough. It was still getting tough out there. I was able to make â€‘â€‘ we were able to pass Marco, but kind of not enough time to catch Dario. There was not many cars out there that could catch draft. But for the first time, like I said, it was positive, in terms of trying, and certainly if we are going to do it.
Q. To do a true heat race format â€‘â€‘ and slugging it out a little bit, is there some incentive â€‘â€‘ inaudible â€‘â€‘ do you just like a 30â€‘lap racetrack?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question, honestly I don't know. People should discuss more this format, or they should discuss that more, brainstorm a little bit more, so that we can get examples and try. I don't know if that would have been the right thing. I'm not sure about the tires, how those two guys would have done it and things like that.
But in the end of the day, like I said, I'm happy that we tried, and we should keep discussing and brainstorm other possibilities so that it can be becoming better and better. I don't know if we are even going to try different ovals. But for sure here, it's a bit different and, well, I'm trying in the front row and that's what I care about.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I think everybody is using their heads, as well. The heat race, it's not a race, which we should do that, as well.
But again, in that particular time, I feel that there was not many cars around, eight cars, so that gives space enough for everybody to have clean air. So when you have 20â€‘something cars, it's becoming much more turbulent and it becomes a little bit more difficult to do it.
Plus, now, in this configuration with fast cars, some of the other guys were trying a different setups and trying to go faster â€‘â€‘ in some laps, time, so it was the first time. And for some of the first cars running in front, at that point would be running backwards the setup. It was a good practice for the race tomorrow, and to understand your car. So that's probably why there was not many incidents. It was like a little bit of a practice instead of an actual race, so we are better understanding that.
Q. We are going to see obviously a very different track atmosphere tomorrow. Do you think there is really a lot that you can apply from today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's why only being 30 laps, that's at least an indication how it's going. But you're right, our cars are very sensitive to the weather. It changed quite a lot, and that could be an interesting factor for tomorrow.
But again, at the same time, you're going to have two times â€‘â€‘ well, many more, 20â€‘something more cars out there that I â€‘â€‘ as I said, even you start a little bit on the front, depending on the front (ph), I think the real deal what it's going to be tomorrow, but at least it gave you some direction, even if the weather is hotter.
Q. It seems like in past years, some cars had a little bit of trouble between the bumps between turns one and two. How did it feel?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It did improve, the bumps out there, it did improve. The tracks guys did a phenomenal job to minimize. But for our cars, it's still quite difficult. And not only that, the outside is also a little bit bumpy, as well.
Hopefully I would also give a suggestion so that next year, trying to put the same work that we did, but a little more aggressive on the bump so that you can create â€‘â€‘ which we do have it, but at least we can experience a different type of downforce and things like that, so that we can â€‘â€‘ it will be more challenging. Right now the bumps are still there, but it was a better change so far.
Q. So now you know what the tires feel like on the first 30 laps of a run. What will you see the next 30 laps on the next set of tires?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Traffic. Obviously we didn't get any traffic out there, and that for sure is going to be a big part of it. And that's where â€‘â€‘ we are not going to run 30 laps without traffic; about 15 laps when it starts traffic, and that, for sure, will change a little bit again.
I believe it will be much more competitive, yes, because, for example, when you have that big of a gap, Dario, I guarantee, when he gets the first guy or the second guy, closer than that, it will change.
Q. I know the 2 car has more downforce â€‘â€‘ what about not having that little wicker on the back, is that something you want to have or is it just right?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right now it seems to be good. It seems to be good in the fact that probably as the tire goes away, and difficult to pass, but in terms of different set ups you might send out, I don't know. I can't answer 100% sure how will that be.
One thing I say, the tires did a good job. The tire does have a lot of grip, and took the downforce off, it does have a change on the handling of the car, about 30 laps. So I would say that that's insane, with the way â€‘â€‘ more traffic, more cars, you're going to â€‘â€‘ I don't know if that will be the right format, but we will try, I don't know yet. I will tell you after the race is over.
THE MODERATOR: Helio thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
We are pleased to be joined by the winner of today's qualifying heat race No. 3 and the pole sitter for tomorrow's Iowa corn Indy 250, Dario Franchitti at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. So this is Dario's his first pole at Iowa Speedway, and this is the second consecutive pole for Dario. He started the pole last week at Milwaukee, as well. Great start for Dario in Iowa. Previously your best start was third in 2007, and this is also the 75th IndyCar pole for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
So Dario, congratulations on a great heat race. If you can, walk us through those 30 laps.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you. I think it start the during the second practice session, trying to get laps to start in the fast eight. I must say, after watching practice, I thought there's nothing much faster than these heat races. The first one, straight out â€‘â€‘ and the second race, I watched Tony making some of those moves and I thought, well, just rubber in. I figured that's all we need here at Iowa for a good race, two lanes opened up, two lanes rubbered in, some grip, and that was definitely the case.
Quite early in our heat, I was able to move up the track and the Target car really was able to make that pass on Marco to gain on him and then the next lap, he was just outside and he gave me more than enough room, and didn't need any extra to pass him, and then I was able to gap the guys behind him, controlled it from about a second and a half so really happy with that. There was not much fallâ€‘off for the tire, and happy with the balance.
So half a stint on the tires tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see what happens as the grip goes away a little bit. But no, really happy with that and looking forward to tomorrow.
Q. When is the last time you had a heat race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I just got asked that. 1989, goâ€‘karts back in Scotland.
Q. Do you like this format?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, I think it could always take some tweaking, but in my view, what I remember from years previous, there was more people in the stands than any other qualifying day I've seen.
So that is a bonus. I think the races, certainly the second two were much more exciting than singleâ€‘car qualifying. I would like to see some tweaking, I there are some things I think we could change but I thought it was a really good start. Get Randy to open his wallet a little bit â€‘â€‘ he looked up as soon as I said "wallet" â€‘â€‘ get some money for them to do this, because all of the team others are risk their cars and stuff. We could do a little modifying, but I thought it was a really good start.
Q. I think Briscoe Tweeted it would be more exciting if the winners of the first two heat earned their way into the final heat.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's definitely an idea. I think â€‘â€‘ I'm sure the guys at IndyCar will go home and think, okay, what can we do to spice it up and that was something we actually talked about, as well, it would be great if you saw TK and Graham stuck on the back of that final race. But as a first stab at it, I thought it was really good.
Q. Would you like to see Michael Andretti try this in Milwaukee next year?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know, I would have to say single car at Milwaukee has been pretty good to me. I don't know. I think we've got to look at this one first and see how it went and what we â€‘â€‘ but I don't think we need to do it every week. It's nice to have it as kind of something different, but I don't think to do it every week would be right.
Well, I still think we have to have some single cars on the short ovals, too, as I say, Milwaukee is pretty challenging. But it's not up to me. I think we have to analyze this weekend first, and the guy (Randy Bernard) at the back of the room will make a decision â€‘â€‘ he's not paying attention. (Laughter).
Q. There has been some rumors about possibly adding Road America to the schedule. Do you have any comments about that or how your feelings would be?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I would love to go to Road America. It's a track that I love driving. I think it's one of the classic road courses in the world, not only North America. I was lucky enough to win my first race there back in 1998. And I would love to go back there.
So if we can make that happen, it would be fantastic. Whether it's this year, I don't know, or next year, would be fantastic. But hopefully we can get back there, and I think if you did a pole on all of the drivers, they would all say the same thing. It's one of the very few things we all agree on I think is to go back there.
Q. What was key for to you make that jump in the second practice session there late and to be so dominant in the heat race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, the key was actually getting a clear lap in that second practice. That's maybe one thing to look at for next year, maybe split that second. If we are going to do that, split the second practice session, because it was me and him at the end, because Graham pulled out of the pits in front of me and proceeded to go ahead. So I had to come in with two sets of tires, and luckily it's only a 17â€‘second lap here, so I was able to get back up to speed and get one clear lap and that was enough to get me in.
I thought the guys, Chris Simmons and the guys on the Target team did a good job. We sat there for a long time after practice â€‘â€‘ a lot longer than we normally do just talking through what the car needed, what it was missing. And that's what we came up with. So it was a good start and I think we've got a couple more changes to make overnight to go racing tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: Well, Dario, thank you very much. Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow.
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