Franchitti Tames Track, Gets Pole In Loudon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 13 2011

Dario Franchitti won the pole at New Hampshire on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

LOUDON, NH – Dario Franchitti won his second pole of the season Saturday, taking the top qualifying spot for MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225, the first IZOD IndyCar Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 1998.

But the star of the show at Loudon so far this week as definitely been the treacherous 1.058-mile oval.

“It was intense,’’ Franchitti said. “That’s the best way I can describe it.

“The track conditions have changed wildly for everybody all weekend,’’ added Franchitti. “The track was great (in practice on) Thursday. Then the modifieds and all that put down some odd rubber and everybody was sliding all over the place and a second off the pace this morning. We went out there hoping it would stick and it did, so I’m really, really happy. That was a good job by the team.’’

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver had a two-lap average of 170.843 mph. Franchitti, who has won two series titles in a row and three of the last four, heads into Sunday’s race with a 63-point lead over Team Penske’s Will Power and 94 ahead of Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon.

“Starting up front is very important, but it was a one and a half groove track on Thursday and I hope we get that back tomorrow,’’ the Scot said. “But there’s a (modified) race tonight , which is going to (rubber)

Target Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti at New Hampshire. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

the track down again. I expect very changeable conditions in the race tomorrow. ‘’

Oriol Servia, driving for Newman/Haas Racing, was a distant second at 169.831, followed by Tony Kanaan at 169.698, rookie James Hinchcliff at 169.590 and Ryan Hunter-Reay at 169.570.

“It’s a lot of fun to drive,’’ said Servia, who likened the track to the one-mile oval at Milwaukee and the .75-mile oval at Richmond, where the IndyCars used to race. “It’s one of the most exciting (tracks) I’ve been on in my life. It’s just a shame that for some reason we only seem to be able to clean one lane and the moment you put two wheels a little lower or a little higher it’s like (driving in the) rain.

“It could be a great place to race on because it has good banking. Tomorrow is going to be very difficult to pass, very difficult.’’

Franchitti liked Servia’s comparison of the New Hampshire track to Milwaukee, where he won from the pole in June. But, other than the fact that they’re both about a mile long, he doesn’t really equate the two circuits.

“To me they feel quite a bit different,’’ said Franchitti, whose 26 career poles match Paul Tracy, tying them for ninth on the all-time list. “The straights are longer here, with tighter corners. The track is smoother here. But they are both fun tracks to race on.’’

Canadian rookie Hinchcliffe summed it up pretty neatly, saying, “It’s a tricky little racetrack, there’s no doubt about it.

“It’s a fast track, very difficult to get the setup right and go fast around here. The racing’s going to be tough because it’s sort of developed into a one-groove racetrack at the moment.

Asked where the passing is likely to take place, Hinchcliffe said, “I really don’t know, yet.

“To pass it’s going to have to be on the inside, wherever it is. The third groove has absolutely no grip. If everybody’s running in a line for the beginning part of the first stint, the bottom line is going to get dirty as well. We’re going to have to see some side-by-side racing early if we’re going to develop a second groove.’’

Among the disappointed drivers Saturday were Dixon, who qualified seventh, Power 13th and fan favorite Danica Patrick 15th.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Results of qualifying Saturday for the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.025-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:

1. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 170.843

2. (2) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 169.831

3. (82) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 169.698

4. (06) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 169.590

5. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 169.570

6. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 169.451

7. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 169.114

8. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 169.044

9. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 168.886

10. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 168.434

11. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 168.047

12. (27) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 167.852

13. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 167.011

14. (19) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 166.877

15. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 166.834

16. (77) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 166.809

17. (59) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 166.536

18. (22) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 166.381

19. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 166.253

20. (18) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 165.265

21. (24) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 164.958

22. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 164.722

23. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 163.816

24. (34) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Honda, 162.285

25. (67) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 161.734

26. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 157.437

27. (30) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, no speed

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 13 2011
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