|Tony Kanaan passes backmarker Marty Roth|
|Tony Kanaan collects his check for winning the pole|
Three 10-thousanths of a second. That's the difference separating pole sitter Tony Kanaan and Andretti Green Racing teammate Marco Andretti after four laps of qualifying on the 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway.
Less time than it takes to snap your fingers or blink. Don't blink on race day, whether you're watching from the grandstands or on ESPN, or you might miss just about anything.
Kanaan posted a four-lap cumulative time of 1 minute, 04.333 seconds (167.876 mph average) in garnering the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by Advance Auto Parts - his first on an oval since last August (1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway). Andretti, driving the No. 26 Blockbuster car, had numbers of 1:04.3642 and 167.795 mph.
Rookie Graham Rahal and series points leader Scott Dixon will start on Row 2, while past Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005) while start on Row 3.
Rice turned in his best qualifying effort since the 2005 season finale. On the flip side, Helio Castroneves, who is second in points, qualified 18th, his lowest starting position since the middle of the 2004 season.
Just when it appeared that Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had finally gotten a break today at Richmond International Raceway, the luckless squad saw its potential run for pole gutted by an electrical problem that prevented Hunter-Reay from making a qualifying run.
Hunter-Reay turned the fastest lap of the day in Friday’s practice for tomorrow night’s SunTrust Indy Challenge, getting around the 0.75-mile track in 16.2003 seconds (166.664 mph), but the team looked like it was destined to suffer the same fate it did last week at Iowa, when the field was set by points after qualifying was rained out - forcing Hunter-Reay to start 14th instead of making the run for the top five that his practice times showed he was capable of.
The rains came today right after the conclusion of afternoon practice, raising the probability of tomorrow’s field being set by IndyCar Series points again. But luckily, the rains passed through and the skies brightened about an hour before qualifying, allowing the drivers to line up for their four-lap runs.
Hunter-Reay was set to roll off the line first, but when it came time to fire the engines, the car wouldn’t move. An electrical problem kept the car from shifting properly, meaning that the team had to pull the car out of line. Under the new four-lap qualifying procedure instituted this year to mimic Indianapolis, the rules state that if you cannot take the track in your allotted place in line, you are not allowed to qualify - meaning that Hunter-Reay and Rahal Letterman will start last in tomorrow’s 26-car field.
The SunTrust Indy Challenge will take place tomorrow beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and can be seen live on ESPN. Fans can also follow all of the action via the timing and scoring feature on the official website of the IndyCar Series, www.indycar.com.
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, qualified first): “If there was a place that I could choose to start on the pole, it’s this one. I think we did a great job. I have to thank my teammates, Danica, Marco and Hideki. Danica and Hideki came and tested here a few weeks ago, and I think it helped us a lot. Me and Marco worked really well together this morning trying to find a good setup, and it was really good. I’ve been in the front quite a lot, but I haven’t been able to accomplish things in the front. So we start all over again. The car was totally different than it was in the afternoon. But I think that with our experience, we knew what was going to happen. It helped that my teammates all qualified in front of me. It helped that I was one of the latest cars to qualify. The track is cooling off and getting better all the time. It’s a good lead for what I need in the race as well. Hopefully the luck is on my side this weekend.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Blockbuster, second): “We really nailed the setup on the Blockbuster car today, especially when you consider that we didn’t get proper runs in practice because we caught traffic each time. It was a great day for Andretti Green Racing, though. It’s good to start up front, especially at this place. Tony (Kanaan) and I both have very good race cars, so I’m excited about tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps, third): “Everything really came together for us in qualifying. We’ve been struggling here all weekend. Luckily if it was going to come together at one point, it’s good that it’s in qualifying. It would be even better if it came together tomorrow. Obviously it’s important to start up front here because it’s really hard to pass, so we’re pretty happy. We made a bunch of changes. The guys did a good job, because all weekend we’ve been struggling and struggling and just didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t know what to expect in qualifying. I figured we would be close to Justin’s time, but when I went out there, the car was really good. The only thing holding me back from going flat was that I couldn’t get the car to downshift mid-corner. I think that if our gearing was a little bit different, which we will know for next year because we didn’t expect to go this fast obviously, I think we would have had a shot at pole.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): “I think both of us in the Target cars left quite a bit on the line. We didn't get as much as we should have out of the car. Going earlier was a big problem for us tonight. As you can see, a lot of slower cars (in practice) went quicker than us at the end (of qualifying). It's tough but (the qualifying order) is drawn out of a hat, so maybe it will help us out later in the season. All in all, it looks pretty decent. The Target cars are quite far up, and the Penske cars are back a little bit, and we've got very good race cars.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, fifth): “We’ve been chasing that car all day. This is great for Dreyer and Reinbold, Roll Coater, Rigid, and all the guys right now. It’s disappointing that last weekend in Iowa we had a wheel bearing failure. We had a really strong car there. We wanted to come here and run strong. This is one of the places that’s kind of an equalizer. It’s good for us.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, sixth): “To be honest, it was a disappointing qualifying performance on my behalf. I somewhat struggled with the car in the first and second practice, and we definitely improved it a lot for qualifying. We definitely were affected by the draw that we got, but that’s part of the new system. I just left too much on the table, and that was disappointing. I’ve done that a couple of times now just because we haven’t had a perfect weekend yet, and that’s what we need to do to make sure that we’re sitting on the pole. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to be on the pole, and that was the case today.”
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, seventh): “Right before we went out, we made a small change on the car, and I think we shouldn’t have made the change. It would’ve been nice if we could start from a better position, but seventh starting position is not bad, so it is OK. I will concentrate on the race, and hopefully we will be able to move up to the front.”
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Lilly Diabetes/Vision Racing, eighth): “I’m happy with our qualifying after we were struggling quite a bit in practice today. The Lilly guys did a really great job making a bunch of changes and getting the car ready for qualifying. I’m happy for the team because we actually get a decent starting position for this race, and that’ll be important. I think we’re finally getting a bit of luck turning our way here, and every little bit helps. Qualifying later was definitely an advantage, but we’ll take it. It’s good to have the Lilly car and the Menards car both in two solid starting positions.”
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, ninth): “I'm very pleased with how the No. 18 Z-Line Designs car qualified today. We were the fifth-fastest in the practice session before qualifying, so we knew we had a fast car and would do well in qualifying. I'm very proud of the hard work the team has put into the car all week. It should be an interesting race Saturday night as this track is sort of a one-groove track. Hopefully we can bring home a good finish. It should be a very exciting race.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology, 10th): “It was a lot of fun. These types of short ovals where you are so much on the edge, makes it always exciting. The KV Racing Technology car was really good. We just had the front a little too low, it was touching the ground. In Turn 4, I had a big moment. I almost lost it, which is why my hands are a little shaky right now, but it’s part of qualifying, part of the fun. Overall, I am quite happy with the result, and I want to thank the team for all their hard work. Hopefully, we can have a good race tomorrow, at least better than the last two, and move up a little in the standings.”
||Tony Kanaan (11)
||Marco Andretti (26)
||Graham Rahal (06)
||Scott Dixon (9)
||Buddy Rice (15)
||Dan Wheldon (10)
||Hideki Mutoh (27)
||AJ Foyt IV (2)
||Bruno Junqueira (18)
||Oriol Servia (5)
||Ryan Briscoe (6)
||John Andretti (24)
||Ed Carpenter (20)
||Danica Patrick (7)
||Marty Roth (25)
||Will Power (8)
||Vitor Meira (4)
||Helio Castroneves (3)
||EJ Viso (33)
||Mario Moraes (19)
||Townsend Bell (23)
||Darren Manning (14)
||Justin Wilson (02)
||Jaime Camara (34)
||Ryan Hunter-Reay (17)
||Enrique Bernoldi (36)