Team Penske Has Dario “Surrounded” At Chicagoland

JOLIET, IL: Team Penske, led by defending Joliet winner Ryan Briscoe, captured three of the top four starting positions for Saturday’s Peak Antifreeze 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. Only two-time Indy winner Dario Franchitti spoiled Team Penske’s near-perfect “photo op” by posting the second best speed of the day.

Briscoe’s third IndyCar pole of 2010 topped a strong 29 car field, second only in car count to the Indy 500. Ryan’s official speed of 216.346 MPH was determined by an average of two laps in an effort to streamline time trials. Franchitti’s two lap average of 215.993 MPH was good enough for the outside of the front row. Unfortunately, only a handfull of spectators were on hand to enjoy the day of speed conducted in near perfect weather conditions.

Following time trials, Ryan Briscoe was asked to evaluate his run:

“The car today was just spot on,” said Briscoe, who won from the pole at Texas Motor Speedway in early June. “I didn’t want to be overconfident, but I was thinking after that run, ‘Man, that has to be hard to beat.’ I knew we were fully trimmed out and the car felt really solid.

“It was a great qualifying run and I’m just really hoping that we can follow through tomorrow and have another good race. We’ve been strong here the last couple of years and I really enjoy racing around here. It’s always exciting. It’s a completely wide track that’s really smooth. It really promotes good racing so I always get excited to come back here.”

Dario Franchitti was thoughtful following his second best run of the day:

“Qualifying is a like an engineering exercise,” said Franchitti, who won at Chicagoland in 2007. “It’s getting all of those pieces into place. Then, if you miss one of them, or in Ryan’s case if you get them all just right, then you see the result. We’d like to have that extra point (for the pole) but we’re starting up front and I think we have a pretty good car in race trim.

“One of the things we realize about these one-and-half mile races is really that anything can happen. It can just go completely bad at anytime. It would be nice to stay up front all night, but we’re prepared for almost anything.”

Initially, Franchitti will be missing his wingmate. Dixon, who has finished second at this oval the past four years in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, will start a season-low 15th (214.269 mph). That ended his series-record streak of 45 consecutive top-10 starts.

Dixon is the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship leader by four over Franchitti.

“Hopefully, he’ll be up there to help me out or I’ll feel like I’m being ganged up on,” Franchitti said.

Two of the better performances were turned in by none-regulars Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter. Carpenter, who hasn’t run since Indy in May, overcame a slight brush with the wall in practice to post the eleventh best speed in the Panther/Fuzzy’s Vodka car; Scheckter was able to place his new Conquest Racing ride in the seventeenth starting position.

The biggest rumor circulating at Chicagoland Speedway so far this weekend concerns the 2011 schedule. Since the recent announcement that NASCAR’s “Chase for the Championship” would begin at Joliet in 2011, it has become the opinion of many that this year’s IndyCar event at Joliet maybe the last. If this rumor were to become fact, the followers of open wheel racing would lose one of their best, most competitive venues. Hopefully, the powers that be will find a way to keep the cars and stars of the Indianapolis 500 in Joliet, where they most certainly belong…

Starting Line-up for Saturday’s Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300:

1. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 216.346

2. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 215.593

3. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 215.521

4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 215.475

5. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 215.321

6. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 215.314

7. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 215.099

8. (06) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 215.055

9. (37) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 214.979

10. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 214.945

11. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 214.831

12. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 214.750

13. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 214.632

14. (19) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 214.468

15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 214.269

16. (8) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 214.210

17. (36) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 214.093

18. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 213.975

19. (77) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 213.910

20. (34) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 213.682

21. (32) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 213.458

22. (24) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 213.429

23. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 213.385

24. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 213.106

25. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 213.095

26. (18) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 212.777

27. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 212.660

28. (21) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 212.484

29. (66) Jay Howard, Dallara-Honda, 212.097

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