Dario Franchitti takes Toronto pole
Welcome to Toronto, where defending champion Franchitti usually finds himself in the hunt, and the bumping starts and tempers flare long before the race begins.
Not long after Franchitti won the pole with a time of 59.351 seconds, Power was already sending a warning to anyone thinking about getting near him on the track on Sunday.
"This year someone takes me out, they're going to get a smack across the chops," said Power, who finished second in qualifying.
Power, referring to last year's race in Toronto where he was spun out twice, was partly joking. But it was evident this season's points leader was in no mood for fooling around on the narrow 1.75-mile street course on the grounds of Exhibition Place that includes 11 turns.
Power and rookie Simon Pagenaud knocked tires during the practice session Saturday morning, after they also bumped during practice Friday. On Saturday, Power responded to being blocked by nearly forcing Pagenaud into a pile of tires.
Power then refused his former teammate's attempt at an apology.
"I gave him the Australian 'Go Away,' when he came to apologize," Power said, referring to how he raised his right hand and walked away.
Pagenaud was surprised by Power's response.
"He's imagining the wrong things," said Pagenaud, who acknowledged making a mistake coming out of the pits. "There's not much I can do. I said, 'I'm sorry, and it was my bad today,' and I move on."
Power wasn't done yet. He delivered a similar gesture to Takuma Sato during the third qualifying round, after Sato blocked Power.
"He got in my way. It ruined his day," Power said, noting Sato was penalized by IndyCar officials, who took away his two fastest qualifying laps. "I don't know who was on his radio. But they should have been telling him who was coming."
Franchitti could only laugh when hearing about Power's squabbles. The Scot turned to the driver and said: "You've had a busy day."
Franchitti won his 29th career pole and is off to a terrific start in Toronto after posting the best time after two practice sessions on Friday.
Now the challenge is for Franchitti actually to take advantage of the position. This season's Indy 500 champion won the pole at Milwaukee three weeks ago, but finished 19th after a crash. He then won the pole at Iowa a week later, but his engine failed before the race even began.
"All we need to do is show up with a fast car and play with the hand we're dealt," said Franchitti, who has three wins in Toronto. "You have to roll with the punches and get on with it."
Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon qualified third through fifth, respectively. Canadian Alex Tagliani was sixth, but will drop 10 spots as a result of a penalty he incurred for changing engines on Friday.
Led by Franchitti, Honda engines continued a late-season surge in the manufacturers' race. Four of the top six cars had Honda engines, with Chevy on the other two.
That marks five straight races in which a Honda engine has won the pole.
The starting lineup will not be official until Sunday, when IndyCar releases an official grid. A shuffle could happen if more drivers make engine changes, which would result in a 10-spot penalty.
Tagliani will drop to 16th, but remains hopeful.
"This race is a race of survival," he said. "You can still make it to the front with different strategy, tires. So I don't think like we can count ourselves out."
Hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe qualified ninth, but is among those who will drop back after changing engines on Friday.
Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified seventh despite having his back left tire brush a wall. Hunter-Reay is second in the point standings, just three behind Power, and is coming off consecutive victories on ovals at Milwaukee and Iowa.
A brief thunderstorm rolled through Toronto on Saturday morning, creating puddles on the street course that's already considered slick because of numerous surface changes.
At the very least, the rains provided cool comfort a day after a sizzling Friday, when temperatures were in the high 90s, and measured at 126 on the track. Conditions warmed up, turning it into a muggy afternoon.
It was a better day for both Wilson and Bourdais, who were involved in a frightening crash on pit lane during a practice session Friday morning.
Wilson blamed a transmission problem that prevented him from stopping before hitting four pit crew members and the back of Bourdais' parked car. Two of Bourdais' pit crew members were treated at a hospital and released.
And the day didn't get any better for Wilson, who was involved into two crashes on the course.
"It still lingers on. It's never a nice experience," said Wilson, who visited with one of the injured crew members. "So I'm really pleased we made it, and I'm also really happy Sebastien made it as well. I think it's fitting."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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