Franchitti earns pole for opening race


By Dave Lewandowski

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – A sleepless night for Tony Cotman was an acceptable trade-off for a safe and competitive race.

The circuit designer employed some heavy equipment to “rough up” the concrete surface of the Anhembi Sambodromo that forms the one-third-mile frontstretch of the 2.6-mile, 11-turn racetrack for the IZOD IndyCar Series’ season-opening Sao Paulo Indy 300. The slippery surface (drivers transition from asphalt of the 180-degree Turn 11 onto the concrete start/finish line stretch) forced postponement of the three rounds of qualifications 17 hours to the March 14 race day.

After multiple passes of grinders, supplemented by hosing down the area, veteran driver Davey Hamilton tested the grip level by making passes with the Indy Racing Experience two-seater about 5 a.m. (local).

He deemed it much improved, and considerably lower times in the 30-minute warm-up sessioand It was all worth it.”n were confirmation.

“I’ve never been in a race car at that time of the day,” Hamilton said. “The good thing is the (grinding) worked and It was all worth it.”

An hour later during qualifying, reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti prevailed in the Firestone Fast Six, earning the PEAK Pole Award for the 75-lap race with a quick lap of 1 minute, 27.7354 seconds in the 10-minute shootout. Alex Tagliani, competing for first-year entrant FAZZT Race Team, also will start on the front row (1:27.7676).

“I was a little surprised to get into (the Firestone Fast Six),” Franchitti said. “I didn’t have a very good day yesterday. We struggled to get my car the way I wanted it to work. We all sat around the table and came up with some ideas, and I think we saw the results. I give all the credit to the team. Today, the track is great. The tires are lasting very well. It will be a good race.”

Justin Wilson, making his debut for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, will start third (1:27.8183). Ryan Hunter-Reay, also competing in his first race for Andretti Autosport, will start fourth (1:27.8756). Verizon Team Penske driver Will Power (1:28.0156) wll share Row 3 with Andretti Autosport’s Tony Kanaan (1:28.6946).

Notables starting further back include 2009 series championship runner-up Scott Dixon (seventh), Ryan Briscoe (eighth) and Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (ninth). Former Formula One driver Takuma Sato, making his IZOD IndyCar Series debut, will start 10th, while another first-race competitor, Simona De Silvestro, will start 11th. Danica Patrick will start 13th.

Notes: Andretti Autosport was the only team with two drivers (Kanaan and Hunter-Reay) in the Firestone Fast Six. … Franchitti has participated in eight consecutive Firestone Fast Six sessions. … Hunter-Reay’s last Firestone Fast Six participation was at Watkins Glen International in 2008 — a race he won.


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