TORONTO -- Dario Franchitti earned his first Indy car pole at Toronto. That was July 20, 1997, when he was a 24-year-old CART rookie with Hogan Racing. In the succeeding years, he's earned four more -- including a decisive run through three rounds of qualifications for Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader weekend on July 13.
The 85-lap jaunt on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street course pays full points to the contestants and will have the added twist of the first IZOD IndyCar Series standing start.
"It feels good to get our third pole of the year," said Franchitti, who moved into a tie with Michael Andretti for sixth on the all-time Indy car list (32) by recording a lap of 59.6756 seconds in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in the Firestone Fast Six. "I made it difficult this morning. I made a mistake in Turn 5, took the right side off the car. The guys had to work and repair the car.
"But the Target car was good on Firestone blacks, Firestone reds. I was able to keep finding a little bit every lap. Even the second runner-up on tires in Q3, I was able to push a little bit more. Felt really good about that."
Click it: Honda Indy Toronto qualifying results || Race 2 qualification groups
Sebastien Bourdais, who's started from the pole three times at Toronto, secured his first front-row start in IZOD IndyCar Series competition in the No. 7 Dragon Racing car.
“We finally got a break and the car is heading in the right direction," said the four-time CART champion who has never started worse than seventh in ninth starts in Toronto (he won in '04). "We made a lot of changes this morning in the (90-minute practice session). I’m pretty hopeful. We’re starting to understand what this car needs on the new tires, which is something we haven’t had since the start of the season."
Combined, Franchitti and Bourdais have amassed 62 victories and 63 pole starts. Four of Franchitti's victories have come in Toronto.
Five different teams were represented in the Firestone Fast Six session. Will Power and Tony Kanaan will share Row 2, while James Jakes and Scott Dixon qualified on Row 3. However, James will incur a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change following the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7.
Series championship points leader Helio Castroneves qualified eighth and defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who entered the event 23 points behind Castroneves, qualified seventh.
"It being a doubleheader, there are double points on the table, and we know the importance of the weekend, the championship coming down to the wire," said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport. "First standing start -- there's a lot of anticipation and nerves leading up to that on the teams' part, manufacturers and drivers, so that should be interesting; it should be fun to mix things up a bit."
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers practiced standing starts from a pit box at the end of pit lane during the morning session. INDYCAR officials monitored the mandatory launches as drivers got acclimated with the light sequence countdown.
Following one formation lap, 12 rows of two will be staged on the frontstretch for the start of the 85-lap race (3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network). Red lights will fill 12 rows (two at a time) of the panel, and when filled there will be a delay between .5 and 3 seconds for the panel to switch to all green.
"For most of the people in the field it’s been such a long time since we did standing starts," Franchitti said. "And with this hand clutch and everything, it’s just going to be a complete unknown. Which in some ways is good; it mixes things up a little bit. It’s better in the front than in the middle of it."
A rolling start will be utilized for Race 2 (3 p.m. ET July 14 on NBC Sports Network). The same format will be used for the Houston doubleheader in early October.