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NASCAR

Tagliani Tops Franchitti For Firestone 550k Pole

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FORT WORTH (Sports Network) – Alex Tagliani claimed the pole position for Saturday night’s IZOD IndyCar Series race after posting the fastest two-lap average in qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

Tagliani, who drives the Honda-powered No. 98 car for Bryan Herta Autosport this season, posted a two-lap average of 215.691 mph in Friday’s qualifying session for the Firestone 550. The Canadian also won the pole at Texas one year ago, when this race here was divided into two 275-kilometer events.

Tagliani’s team began this season with Lotus as its engine supplier but switched to Honda prior to last month’s Indianapolis 500 when Lotus ended its leasing agreement with Herta and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

“We flew under the radar at Indy but had a really fast car (for the race), and I think the car has been good on every type of track,” Tagliani said. “It’s looking good for the rest of the year.”

Tagliani gave Herta its maiden pole in the series.

Franchitti, who won the May 27 Indianapolis 500, held the provisional pole until Tagliani topped Franchitti’s time by only 0.01 seconds.

“That was probably the most difficult qualifying I’ve had here with the level of downforce,” said Franchitti, whose two-lap average was clocked at 215.646 mph. “We’ve tried to make the cars harder to drive, and I definitely felt that in qualify, and I think we’ll have that in the race. I think that will make better racing. It will be like any race we’ve seen here in some time.”

Franchitti’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon, qualified third and fourth, respectively. Dixon won last Sunday’s race at Detroit’s Belle Isle, which was shortened due to track surface damage.

“I think we’ll be racy, and I look forward to going tomorrow night under the lights,” Dixon said. “There is more emphasis placed back in the drivers’ hands with this car, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Will Power, the current points leader, placed his Team Penske car fifth on the starting grid. James Hinchcliffe from Andretti Autosport will share the third row with Power.

“It was a tough run out there for sure, and we had some hard limiter on that second lap, but I could hear other people dealing with the same issues,” Power said. “In the race, I think it’s going to be about track position and with the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car starting fifth things are looking good for us. It is going to be a fun race”

Power enters this race with a 26-point lead advantage over Dixon.

Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti will start from the fourth row, while rookie Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Briscoe will roll off from row five.

Mike Conway qualified eighth and Takuma Sato placed 10th, but both drivers received a 10-grid spot penalty for unapproved engine changes. Therefore, Conway will start 18th and Sato 20th.

Simona de Silvestro and rookie Josef Newgarden were also penalized for engine changes. Newgarden did not make a qualifying attempt. They will start from the rear of the field.

The 550-kilometer race at Texas is scheduled to start at 8:50 p.m. (ET).

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