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Power Paces Penske Qualifying Podium

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 26 2009

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Will Power put down the quickest lap of the weekend to pace a “spot-on” podium sweep for Team Penske Saturday during qualifying for the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Will Power and Roger Penske discuss strategy.  (IndyCar photo)

Will Power and Roger Penske discuss strategy. (IndyCar photo)

Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves will start 1-2-3 when the green flag drops shortly after 5 p.m., EDT, for the 95-lap/186.2-mile IndyCar Series event on the Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit. The race will be telecast live in High Definition by VERSUS.

Power earned his second PEAK Performance Pole Award with his lap of 1 minute, 1.0133 seconds (116.414 mph) during the Firestone Fast Six session around the 1.973-mile, 14-turn circuit.

“It’s very tough qualifying here. I’m physically exhausted,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda. “To do that lap, I’m very tired by the end of it, but it was a very good result. I’m very happy to have a 1-2-3 qualifying result for Penske Racing. It just shows what a good team I’m with. None of us have really had to make too many changes this weekend. The cars have been spot-on.”

Power also qualified on-pole on the Streets of Long Beach earlier this year. He has been involved in the Firestone Fast Six during each race he has participated in. Power’s pole-winning lap was run during the final minute of the 10-minute shootout format that sets the first three rows of IndyCar road/street races.

“The starting position gives you an advantage, but you’ve really got to use it,” said Power, who finished third on the Toronto street circuit two weeks ago. “As you can see in these races, anything can happen. I just hope to have a clean race (Sunday) in the Penske Truck Rental car. I’d love to win one before the next few races that I get to compete in. Tomorrow would be nice.”

Briscoe, last year’s pole-sitter in this event, recorded his second front-row start in the past three street/road events with a time of 1:01.1232/116.205 mph in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda.

“I feel pretty good,”  said Briscoe, who earned his sixth front row start this season. “I would have liked the pole but the important thing is we’re at the front and the Team Penske car is very fast. It’s really handling well around this Edmonton track so it really makes us feel good going into the race. It is a little bit frustrating because we didn’t get everything out of the new tires that we could have. I felt like there was a little bit more to lose than to gain by hanging it out too much, but it’s still awesome. I’ve gone on to finish first when starting in second place before, so hopefully we can make that happen tomorrow.”

Team Penske’s Castroneves (1:01.2033/116.053 mph) will be joined by Scott Dixon (1:01.2046/116.050 mph), the defending event champion, in Row 2. Castroneves posted his best qualifying performance on a road or street course this year. His previous best was eighth at Long Beach in his belated first start of 2009.

“It was fun,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Dallara/Honda. “For a moment I forgot how fun it was to fight for the pole position but, let me tell you, Team Penske is awesome. They did a great job putting three cars in the top positions. That’s what happens when you have three guys that step on the gas, you get excitement and it makes you push as hard as you can. I’m happy and we will be ready for a strong race on Sunday.”

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, continued an amazing streak that has seen him qualify in the top-10 for every race this season.

“My afternoon wasn’t too bad,” Dixon said. “It’s a difficult circuit that I think our team struggles at a bit for pure, flat-out speed. We were back and forth throughout the weekend and in and out of the top six positions, so it’s been tough. Qualifying, especially in the first group, was pretty tough for me. As qualifying went on, especially for the last run I didn’t think that we could even get close to the top but we did on our second set of reds (Firestone tires) so that was pretty nice.”

Graham Rahal (1:01.952), driving the No. 02 McDonald’s car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, and IndyCar points-leader Dario Franchitti (1:01.8344) will share Row 3.

“We started the third round on the old reds (alternate tires) and we probably could have gone a little bit quicker,” Rahal said, “but we wouldn’t have done a 1:01.2. “Fortunately, we’re in the top-six again, which feels really good. The best thing is that at that at the end of last year we sat down and had a talk at the shop and we said, ‘If we don’t make the top-six at least three times next year, we’re going to be disappointed.’ And we’ve been in it every single time but once, and we narrowly missed it and started seventh. So we’ve got to be pretty pleased with that.”

Franchitti, the only driver to be in every Firestone Fast Six this season, will take a two-point lead (347-345) over Dixon into the race. “I’m delighted with our performance today,” said Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Ganassi entry. “We’ve struggled all weekend with this car. The guys on the team worked so, so hard. I’m happy with our team’s performance today.”

Meanwhile, Canadian star and crowd favorite Paul Tracy qualified ninth at 115.162 mph in the No. 15 Edmonton Honda Dealers/woundedwarriors.ca car. “I ran my fastest lap in the first round, but unfortunately the track changed a little bit between the sessions, and I developed some oversteer,” Tracy said. “We didn’t change anything on the car, but the track changed on us. It is so tight from sixth to ninth, where I am, that we missed the Firestone Fast Six by just a tenth (of a second), which is a shame.”

Danica Patrick, who was involved in a crash during practice Friday with Dan Wheldon, will start 20th in the 23-car field after a top lap at 113.611 mph in the No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola Dallara/Honda.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 26 2009
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