Savvy Strategy Gets Franchitti Sonoma Pole

Dario Franchitti
Dario Franchitti earned the pole for Sunday's IZOD IndyCar Series race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. (Chris Jones/IndyCar Photo)
Dario Franchitti earned the pole for Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. (Chris Jones/IndyCar Photo)

SONOMA, Calif. – Dario Franchitti may be winless in 2013 but he certainly has the experience and savvy that has made him a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion.

He showed that savvy in Saturday’s Firestone Fast Six by using two sets of Reds (softer, faster tires) in the three rounds of qualifications but only running one stint in each session. By doing that, he had a brand new set of Red tires that he used to win the pole with a time of 1:17.5271 around the 12-turn, 2.385-mile permanent road course for a speed of 110.748 miles per hour in a Dallara/Honda.

That means Franchitti will also have two sets of fairly fresh Firestone Reds to use in Sunday’s race as he attempts to win for the first time this season.

“The car was good enough that I was able in Q1 do one lap on Reds and pulled me straight in,” Franchitti said. “That was a gamble there. It was, ‘okay, let’s see if we can get away with this and run for a second lap,’ and it wasn’t an issue. I even messed up the lap a little bit, so I was quite happy. Still think I was third. So obviously that gave us a bit of a buffer, which it turns out I needed in Fast Six because I messed up one of the corners both laps.”

It was Franchitti’s third pole position at Sonoma. He also won the pole here in 2007 and 2009. It was also the 33rd career pole for Franchitti and his fourth pole of the season, and he also qualified on the pole at Long Beach, Belle Isle and Toronto.

“Both Target cars have been fast all weekend, and in the test, as well,” Franchitti said, referring to Wednesday’s Open Test session at Sonoma Raceway. “So we haven’t made a lot of changes, but we couldn’t seem to go back to where we started. Q1, we just did the one lap on the Reds and it was a pretty good time, so they pulled me and we felt there’s still a lot of good left on the tires so we put them on for the second run, and the car was good again and I managed to make a couple of mistake, actually.

“So still I was surprised to be as close to the guys on the new Reds. Then we had the new Reds on for the Firestone Fast Six, which is just as well, because I did a good job on 10 and 11 corners, and royally screwed up turn 6 in both laps. Luckily I had the advantage in the other corners to make it.

“I’m really happy, and good to have all three of the Ganassi cars in the Top‑6 is pretty cool. “

Franchitti also paid his respect to team owner Chip Ganassi’s father, Floyd, who died this past Monday and to team engineer Andy Brown’s wife, Kristine, who also died.

“It’s been a fairly crap week. So we are pretty focused on bringing a good result for the team,” Franchitti said.

Scott Dixon, who enters the race 31 points behind Helio Castroneves in the battle for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, starts second after running a lap at 1:17.7196 (110.474 mph) in a Dallara/Honda and is attempting to score his second win at Sonoma. He won here in 2007.

“Typically Penske has a pretty strong track here, so nice to get on the front row,” Dixon said. “But obviously tomorrow is where points pay, and looking forward to that, so we’ll see.

“Dario, obviously made a strong call to save a set of Reds and Q2 and go through to Q3 with a new set. So, we were kind of setting our sites on trying to be second and that’s where it turned out.”

Team Penske driver Will Power is the only driver to win at Sonoma Raceway more than once since the series began racing here in 2005. Power drove to victory in 2010 and 2011.

He qualified third with a lap at 1:17.9735 (110.114 mph) in a Dallara/Chevrolet.