Dario Franchitti will be aiming for a drama-free weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after claiming his thirtieth IndyCar Series pole position around the 1.968-mile street circuit.
In a closely-fought ‘Fast Six’ qualifying session, the Scot narrowly edged out reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay to top spot by just five-hundredths of a second.
It was a welcome return to form for Franchitti, who has failed to finish either of the preceding races this season at St Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park. With this event marking his 250th IndyCar Series / IRL race start, he will draw ahead of Sébastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy on the all-time winners’ list should he claim a 32nd career win in Sunday’s 80-lap race.
Will Power qualified third-fastest in his Penske entry – the team was the only outfit to get two cars into the ‘Fast Six’ phase, with teammate Hélio Castroneves managing sixth-fastest – which marked the first time since 2008 that he hasn’t qualified on the front-row at the Californian circuit.
Sharing the second row of the grid with him is Takuma Sato, who again showed outstanding qualifying pace in his new AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda entry.
One of Saturday’s star performers was Mike Conway, making his IndyCar Series return with a one-off outing with the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan team. The Englishman qualified a sensational fifth-fastest, with a performance almost certain to guarantee him more appearances with the team this season.
Narrowly missing out on ‘Fast Six’ berths were the likes of St Petersburg racewinner James Hinchcliffe, along with Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and EJ Viso, who completed the top-ten.
A few high-profile drivers will start well down the order after falling foul of the stewards’ rule book.
The most notable was perhaps Scott Dixon, who looked on course to sail into the second phase of qualifying before he spun in the middle of Turn 1 late in the session, blocking the circuit.
The next man on the scene was Oriol Servià, who had no option but to steer his D&R/Panther entry into the barriers to avoid hitting the New Zealander’s car. That triggered a red flag so marshals could mop up the mess, and will confine both to the back of the grid for Sunday’s race.
Also penalised was Marco Andretti, who was found guilty of impeding JR Hildebrand during the same session. The America had been on course to make the Top-12 phase of qualifying, but his penalty promoted oval-specialist Hildebrand in his place.
2013 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach – Final Qualifying Results:
|No.||Driver||Entry / Team||Result|
|1.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||1:07.2379||F6|
|2.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||1:07.2934||F6|
|3.||Will Power||Team Penske – Chevrolet||1:07.3987||F6|
|4.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises – Honda||1:07.4472||F6|
|5.||Mike Conway||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||1:07.5994||F6|
|6.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske – Chevrolet||1:07.9698||F6|
|7.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||1:07.4358||T12|
|8.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||1:07.5891||T12|
|9.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||1:07.6306||T12|
|10.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela – Chevrolet||1:07.7209||T12|
|11.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||1:07.7799||T12|
|12.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing – Chevrolet||1:07.7902||T12|
|13.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||1:07.9185||G1|
|14.||AJ Allmendinger||Team Penske – Chevrolet||1:08.2001||G2|
|15.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||1:07.9823||G1|
|16.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman – Honda||1:08.2579||G2|
|17.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH – Honda09||1:07.9979||G1|
|18.||Oriol Servià||Panther / D&R – Chevrolet||1:08.2889||G2|
|19.||Tristan Vautier||SPH – Honda||1:08.1512||G1|
|20.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||1:08.3173||G2|
|21.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||1:08.4404||G1|
|22.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing – Honda||1:08.6431||G2|
|23.||Ana Beatriz||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||1:08.9133||G1|
|24.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing – Chevrolet||1:09.0318||G2|
|25.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||no time||G1|
|PEN.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||1:09.4506||G2|
|PEN.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||1:09.6706||G2|