Dario Franchitti wins IndyCar pole
LOUDON, N.H. -- The first time Dario Franchitti won the pole position this year, he also won the race and climbed into a first-place tie in the IndyCar Series standings.
He captured the pole for a second time Saturday, but he's already way out in front in total points.
Franchitti can add to his 63-point lead over Will Power on Sunday in the 225-mile race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a relatively flat, one-mile oval like the one at the Milwaukee Mile, where his victory two months ago tied him with Power for the top spot.
But Franchitti, who won the IndyCar series the past two years, downplayed the similarities between the two tracks.
"To me, they feel quite a bit different," he said. "The straights are longer here, tighter corners. The track is smoother here, some bumps in Turn 3. But apart from that, it's smoother.
"Milwaukee's a short track. This doesn't feel like a short track. This, to me, drives like an intermediate track."
Conditions changed as the day wore on and drivers expect to have to adjust to the surface as the first IndyCar race at the track since 1998 progresses Sunday.
"It's a tricky little track here," said James Hinchcliffe, who qualified fourth. "No one's raced here before."
Oriol Servia, who had the second-best average time on his two qualifying laps, viewed the track as a combination of two others.
"It's a little bit of Milwaukee and a little bit of Richmond," he said. "It's a perfect mix between the two race tracks."
The track "was in great condition" for Thursday's practice but slippery when the drivers went out for more practice Saturday morning, Franchitti said. "The track was definitely back at its best for qualifying."
How will it be Sunday on an oval where passing is difficult -- and with a 30 percent chance of rain?
"I expect the track to change a lot as the race goes on," Franchitti said. "We'll adapt to the change in track conditions because I think it will take that to win the race."
Franchitti, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, won the pole with an average time of 170.843 mph on a dry, sunny day. Servia, of Newman-Haas Racing, qualified in 169.831.
Tony Kanaan, fourth in the standings, had the third-best qualifying time and will start inside on the second row next to Hinchcliffe. Power qualified in 13th place, two spots in front of Danica Patrick, who will start inside on the eighth row in the 26-car field.
"Come race day, it will be hard to know what the track conditions will be like," Patrick said.
It will be the first IndyCar race on an oval since the end of June in Iowa, where Marco Andretti won and Franchitti finished fifth. The cars have been racing on road courses since then.
Pippa Mann, an IndyCar rookie whose only other race this year was the Indianapolis 500, did not participate in qualifying after her car spun and hit a wall during morning practice.
She was released from Concord Medical Center, where she was evaluated and is scheduled for an MRI in Indianapolis Monday. She will not be cleared to drive before receiving the results of that test.
Franchitti won the 26th pole position of his career, passing Paul Tracy for ninth place. Franchitti is seeking his fifth win going into the 13th race of the year. Power, also with four victories, is the only other driver with more than one.
Franchitti had a solid chance at a victory last weekend at Mid-Ohio but finished second to teammate Scott Dixon, who passed him during a restart with 24 laps to go.
Dixon had the seventh-best qualifying time of 169.114 mph Sunday.
"It was definitely frustrating for us out there," he said. "It's not what we expected. The track has changed a lot."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press