Alex Tagliani is a driver who has fond memories of Texas Motor Speedway. The Canadian has claimed back-to-back pole positions at the circuit, going quickest in Friday night’s qualifying session at the 1.5-mile oval, narrowly edging out Dario Franchitti for top spot.
The Canadian posted a two-lap average speed of 215.691mph in the session – the first this season to be run under the traditional oval racing format, where drivers head out in a pre-set order to challenge for pole position.
The Andretti Autosport pairing of Marco Andretti, and then James Hinchcliffe, held top honours after their early runs, before ‘Hinch’ was displaced by Indianapolis 500 winner Franchitti.
The Scot was challenged by series leader Will Power for top spot, but the Australian faltered on his second lap when he hit the rev limiter. Power was then displaced by Franchitti’s Chip Ganassi team-mates Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon, giving the team a provisional 1-2-3 in qualifying.
But then Tagliani took to the top spot in his Bryan Herta-run entry, in only the team’s third outing since it switched to Honda power after struggling with the uncompetitive Lotus engine it had run earlier in the year. His pole position average speed was just over 0.5mph quicker than the result he’d achieved a year before when he took pole position for the Sam Schmidt Motorsport team, an impressive result for the series’ new Dallara DW12 chassis and the latest engine configuration adopted by the series.
While IndyCar rookie Josef Newgarden starts from the rear of the field after failing to set a qualifying time (his engine was being changed after a failure in the day’s earlier practice session), two other drivers failed to post a qualifying result within the traditional 105% cut-off.
JR Hildebrand finished as the slowest timed runner in his Panther Racing entry, brought about by a mistake by the American on his single warm-up lap, which compromised the rest of his two-lap dash.
Simona de Silvestro also failed to make the qualifying cut in the field’s only Lotus-powered entry, with the HVM driver clearly struggling with the gutless engine on an oval where horsepower is everything.
It is widely expected that series officials will again force her to retire from Saturday night’s race if she is unable to sustain a quick enough race pace in tomorrow’s 228-lap event, as was the case at the Indianapolis 500 a fortnight ago.
2012 IndyCar Series Texas Firestone 550 Final Qualifying Results:
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