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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Penske 1-2-3 in Glen Qualifying

It’s Roger Penske’s world, and we’re all just living in it – at least if qualifying results for Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen are to be believed.

His drivers, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Briscoe, will start 1-2-3 for the 60-lap event after besting Dario Franchitti, Takuma Sato, and defending race winner Justin Wilson in Firestone Fast Six qualifying. It marks Team Penske’s eighth consecutive open-wheel pole, a new record, as the team has won every Glen pole six years running.

Power capitalized on an extra set of alternate-compound Firestone tires in the final qualifying session, allowing him to post the fastest lap of the day. Castroneves pushed a little too hard, sliding into the turn eight gravel, but was allowed to keep his fast two laps because he only brought out a local yellow. IndyCar rules stipulate that any driver who causes a full-course caution during a qualifying session will have their two best laps voided.

Such was the case for Ryan Hunter-Reay in the first round of qualifying. Despite turning some very competitive laps in the second group, he lost control of his car and required the assistance of emergency vehicles to remove him from the gravel. To make matters worse, Hunter-Reay, having to push especially hard to make up the loss of his two hot laps, had his run compromised by the slow car of Milka Duno at the end of the session, and did not advance to round two.

Hunter-Reay immediately made his way over to Duno’s pit at the end of the session and expressed his feelings. “There are 14, 15 corners here, and she’s the 15th or 16th corner,” Hunter-Reay said after the session, affirming the same comments that many drivers have made over the past couple of years.

Dale Coyne, Duno’s owner, was quick to point out that Duno was not the driver who caused a full-course yellow. Coyne won here last year with Wilson; this year, in a reversal of fortune, his two cars will start 22nd and 24th.

Most of the cars to advance to the second round of qualifying came from the sport’s four top teams: Team Penske (all three), Chip Ganassi Racing (two), Andretti Autosport (two), and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (two). Raphael Matos and de Ferran Dragon Racing made the tenth car, and KV Racing rebounded from E.J. Viso’s crash in practice to put their other two cars, driven by Sato and Mario Moraes, in the top 12 as well.

Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Alex Tagliani, Vitor Meira, and most prominently, Danica Patrick were among the names not to advance.

Bumping in and out of the top six in the second round of qualifying took place almost every lap. Eventually, Scott Dixon, who won this event in each of its first three years, found himself in seventh, on the outside looking in. Both Andretti cars that had advanced, driven by Marco Andretti and Adam Carroll, found themselves in the same position. Carroll was, in fact, a surprise to make the second round, as he had struggled in morning practice. Matos, Moraes, and Paul Tracy were the other three not to move on.

But the focus of the day remains on Power, who has now won an impressive fifth pole in nine starts thus far this year. Briscoe won two of the other three consecutive Penske poles, while Castroneves led the field to green at Indianapolis. Power is also the series’ only multiple winner thus far, taking the checkers at Sao Paulo and Barber, while Castroneves and Briscoe have a victory apiece.

In Firestone Indy Lights, James Hinchcliffe of Team Moore Racing won the pole for tomorrow’s Corning 100, which will directly precede the IZOD IndyCar Series race at 1:30 PM.

The Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen will begin at 3:30 PM. It will be broadcast live on ABC.

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