Tagliani has Indy pole
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Alex Tagliani broke up the monopoly in the top-heavy IndyCar series and became the first Canadian to earn the pole for the Indianapolis 500.
On a day each of the series’ three top teams – Andretti Autopsort, Target Chip Ganassi and Team Penske – made big mistakes, it was a 37-year-old Canadian who got it right twice with a four-lap average of 227.472 mph on the day’s final run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
One of Ganassi’s drivers, Scott Dixon, will start next to Tagliani on the front row. Defending champ Dario Franchitti could have joined them had he not run out of fuel on the final qualifying lap. Spain’s Oriol Servia will start third.
“I’m getting tired of the Penske and Ganassi domination, here especially at the 500,” Tagliani said after the morning run that gave Sam Schmidt Motorsports the provisional Indy pole. “I think a lot of people are craving for it, and if we can do it, it would be nice.”
He did it twice Saturday – once in the morning and again in the evening.
Meanwhile, the big boys struggled to keep up with Tagliani.
Seven drivers from the vaunted Andretti, Ganassi and Penske teams failed to make the field. Among them are three top Americans – Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal. Ryan Briscoe, one of two Aussies expected to contend for the pole, also failed to lock up a spot for the May 29 race.
The biggest bungle Saturday was Ganassi’s fuel miscalculation.
After running three straight laps over 227 mph, Franchitti suddenly slowed down and wound up coasting back to pit lane. Ganassi threw his arms up in disgust just as Dixon, the 2008 winner, was about to take the track. Dixon also ran out of fuel in the final turn.
“He (Dario) ran out in one and I ran out just getting to turn four. I think that cost us the pole,” Dixon said. “It was frustrating, and I think Dario’s a little more ticked off than I am. You come so close and not quite get it, it was real frustrating.”
A few minutes later, Tagliani capitalized by reclaiming the top spot he had held for nearly 6 hours. Dixon completed the four-lap run at 227.340 and was little consolation to Franchitti, who dropped from the front row to the outside of Row 3.
Franchitti wasn’t the only member of the tough-luck club Saturday.
Brazil’s Helio Castroneves missed out on an unprecedented third straight pole and wasn’t even fast enough to make the day-ending shootout with the nine fastest qualifiers. Castroneves will start 16th, the inside of Row 6, his worst starting spot in 11 career races at Indy.
For Michael Andretti, it was even worse. He watched disbelievingly as all five of his drivers qualified near the back of the top 24 and then got bumped from the field. Some fans cheered when Patrick was knocked off the starting grid.
Patrick, Marco and John Andretti all failed to requalify on their second attempt, and it wasn’t until John Andretti’s third and final attempt of the day that the team finally put someone in the race by going 1 for 10.
Andretti’s other four drivers will try to fill the remaining nine spots on the 33-car grid.
“It wasn’t a Hail Mary,” said John Andretti, who qualified 17th with an average of 224.981. “It was more like ‘Here are the adjustments we made and the rain is at I-465, so let’s go.”‘