Iowa starting grid set with new heat qualifying, Franchitti on the pole

For the first time the series uses heat races to determine starting grid.

Iowa starting grid set with new heat qualifying, Franchitti on the pole

Franchitti Wins Heat Race, Pole For Iowa Corn Indy 250

NEWTON, Iowa (Friday, June 22, 2012) - Dario Franchitti, who leaped into the top eight on the time chart in the final seconds of practice to qualify for the heat race, passed Marco Andretti on Lap 8 of 30 and went on the claim the pole for the 250-lap race under the lights June 23.

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske and Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske and Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Photo by: Andy Sallee

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 .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.

Also on June 22, Tristan Vautier's first qualifying lap of 160.066 mph on the .894-mile Iowa Speedway oval paved the way to a two-lap average of 159.973 mph (40.2368 seconds) and the pole position for the Firestone Indy Lights Sukup 100 on June 23.

Vautier, driving the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports with Curb Agajanian car, earned his third pole of the season -- and second in a row. He went on to win the race last weekend at the Milwaukee Mile.

Esteban Guerrieri will start on the front row for the third time this season, posting a qualifying speed of 159.597 mph (40.3316 seconds). He started from the pole in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway.

Victor Carbone, the final qualifier, jumped to third in the No. 3 Mav TV/Nevoni/SSM with Curb Agajanian car to provide the sixth 1-2-3 starting lineup for the team in Firestone Indy Lights. Sebastian Saavedra will join Carbone on Row 2 in the No. 27 Team AFS car.


This is Dario Franchitti's second pole of 2012 and his first pole at Iowa Speedway. It is the 28th pole of his Indy car career. Franchitti won the pole at Milwaukee last weekend.

It is the 77th pole in Indy car racing for Chip Ganassi Racing and the third time a Ganassi car has started on pole at Iowa Speedway.

Helio Castroneves qualified second, his second front-row start in 2012. He started on pole at Barber Motorsports Park in April. It is his fourth front-row start at Iowa Speedway.

Marco Andretti qualified third, his best qualifying performance in 2012.

James Hinchcliffe qualified fourth, his fifth top-five start of 2012.

Ryan Briscoe qualified fifth, his third top-five start of 2012.


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 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."

Marco Andretti leads Andretti Autosport in Iowa qualifying

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Castroneves earns front row start to lead Team Penske into Saturday’s Iowa 250

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