Dario Franchitti earns pole start for Sunday race

Via IndyCar.com

July 7, 2012 (Toronto, ON) - Dario Franchitti earned his first Indy car pole start on the streets of Toronto in 1997. He claimed No. 29 on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit for the Honda Indy Toronto.

Franchitti posted a lap of 59.3510 seconds on the last of his five laps in the Firestone Fast Six to wrest the pole from Will Power, the 2011 pole sitter, in the final 20 seconds of the 10-minute session. Power, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship front-runner in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was .0247 of a second back.

"The times have been so close all weekend; we're happy to be at the top," said Franchitti, who will seek his fifth victory at Toronto in the 85-lap race July 8 (12:30 p.m. ET on ABC and TSN2). "That was a really hard-earned pole. Track position will be very important and it is great be up front in Toronto again. Tomorrow is going to be a really good race for all the fans that come out to see us."

It's the third consecutive race in which Franchitti, driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, will start from the pole. He's eighth in the title chase (69 points off the pace), and his second victory of the season would tighten the gap heading to the Edmonton Indy in two weeks. Last year, Franchitti won the race (his fourth at Toronto) starting from the second row and took a 55-point lead over Power to the Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit.

Five different teams were represented in the Firestone Fast Six, and the six were separated by .2106 of a second.

Justin Wilson, who set an IZOD IndyCar Series track record of 59.0663 seconds in Round 2, will start third in the No. 18 Sonny's BBQ car for Dale Coyne Racing. Sebastien Bourdais gave Dragon Racing its highest start of the season in fourth, while Scott Dixon, the 2011 race runner-up to Franchitti, was fifth.

"We’re really happy. We didn’t change anything into the third, and just didn’t quite get the lap I was looking for," said Wilson, the 2010 race pole winner. "I think it was there, we just didn’t get it all together, so we’ll start third. It’s all about the crashing and bashing, so hopefully we can stay out of that from now on, keep our heads down and have a good solid race."

Alex Tagliani qualfied sixth in the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA car, but he'll drop 10 spots on the grid because of an unapproved Honda engine change entering the event.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who vaulted to second in the championship standings with victories the past two races, missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by .0684 of a second and will start seventh. He's qualified for the final round in four of the six road/street course races.

The top six advancing to the final round were separated by .3482 of a second.

"We just missed it by a little bit," Hunter-Reay said. "We had a little bit too much understeer, but tomorrow's the only day that counts so I think we're looking good for the race. This track is a challenge to find the balance between how your car reacts in the slow corners versus how it handles in the fast corners. Toronto is always a great race for the fans, but it's nerve-wracking for us drivers because you're always worried about getting hit from behind. The racing has been awesome this year, and I expect the same (July 8)."

Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ontario, qualified ninth in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car. But he'll incur a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved Chevrolet engine change, stemming from an issue discovered in practice July 6.