Dario Franchitti continued to be the man to beat at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, as the Andretti Green Racing driver set a new qualifying record around the 1.8-mile Florida street circuit to claim the pole for Sunday’s IndyCar Series race.
Franchitti’s pole time of 1:02.275 was three-tenths of a second faster than the previous mark set by teammate Bryan Herta in last year’s inaugural event, despite generally higher temperatures today and the elimination of wheelspin-limiting “traction control” from this year’s spec Honda Indy V-8 powerplant, used by the entire starting field.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon posted the second-fastest time in the final moments of the 10minute qualifying shootout, and will line up alongside Franchitti on the outside of the front row for the start of Sunday’s 100-lap race. Franchitti’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, ran second-fastest in the single-car qualifying that established the “shootout six”, but was bumped back to third in the final starting grid by Dixon’s last-second run.
Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves qualified fourth and fifth, respectively, for Marlboro Team Penske, while last year’s pole qualifier Herta rounded out the top six. Sunday’s second race in the 2006 IndyCar Series season starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ESPN. As a reminder, Daylight Savings Time also takes effect throughout most of the USA tonight at 2 a.m.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) pole qualifier, finished third in last year’s race:
“Just like yesterday, the car was quick all day. We made some small adjustments for qualifying, then it was up to me to get the job done. I have to thank [engineer] Allen McDonald and all the boys [on the crew] today, they gave me a car that behaved exactly the way I like it. It was a fantastic job by the entire team. In the race tomorrow, we just have to get through the first turn cleanly and then see how things develop. One thing we found last year is that you can pass here – we came through the field twice after our fuel problems – but I certainly hope we don’t have to do that again!”