After winning pole last weekend at Milwaukee only to crash out, Dario Franchitti is hoping for better results Saturday night at Iowa Speedway, where he'll once again the field to the green flag.
Utilizing times from Friday's second practice session, three 30-lap heat races commenced later that night to determine the grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 (Sat., 10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). Franchitti managed to crack the top 8 in the practice session to ensure a place in the final heat that set the first four rows, then took the lead early from Marco Andretti and never looked back.
He'll be on the inside of the front row alongside Helio Castroneves, who finished second in the final heat. Andretti, the defending Iowa champion, will be in Row 2 after a third-place finish in the same race; he'll be alongside teammate James Hinchcliffe.
"We were struggling a little bit this morning with the Target car in race trim but we made it much better in the second session of practice," said Franchitti, who earned his 28th career pole. "But the heat (race) -- the car stuck and we were able to put the Target car around the outside of Marco, kind of liked I watched [Tony Kanaan] do in the heat race before me.
"I got out in front and the car felt good - no troubles for the rest of the run with no real fall off till the end of the race."
The heat racing format, which will only be utilized for the Iowa event this season, had garnered some apprehension going in from the drivers due to the risk of tearing up equipment. But on Friday, all three heats came and went without incident.
As for ideas on what could be done to further tweak the format, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (starting 5th) tweeted that Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan -- the winners of the first two heat races that set the grid for the odd and even numbered positions from eighth on back -- should've been allowed to start the final heat from the back of the field.
In addition, Castroneves proposed one or two-lap qualifying runs to determine the groups for heat races in the future.
Franchitti's thought was simple.
"Get [INDYCAR CEO] Randy [Bernard] to open his wallet a little bit ‑‑ he looked up as soon as I said "wallet" ‑‑ get some money for [the teams] to do this, because all of the team owners are risking their cars and stuff," he said. "We could do a little modifying, but I thought it was a really good start."
Four drivers will be assessed 10-spot penalties for Saturday's 250-lap race due to unapproved engine changes.
Kanaan and E.J. Viso elected to change engines before the event weekend and after their heat results on Friday, they'll start 19th and 24th respectively on Saturday. In addition, Rahal and Simon Pagenaud swapped motors before qualifying on Friday; after the heats, Rahal's starting from 20th and Pagenaud will have to begin from dead last, 25th.
Here's how the grid looks after the aforementioned heats/penalties:
IZOD IndyCar Series
Iowa Corn Indy 250 -- STARTING GRID
Iowa Speedway -- Newton, Iowa
10-Dario Franchitti, Ganassi/Honda
3-Helio Castroneves, Penske/Chevrolet
26-Marco Andretti, Andretti/Chevrolet
27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti/Chevrolet
2-Ryan Briscoe, Penske/Chevrolet
12-Will Power, Penske/Chevrolet
28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti/Chevrolet
9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi/Honda
98-Alex Tagliani, Herta/Honda
67-Josef Newgarden, SFHR/Honda
8-Rubens Barrichello, KVRT/Chevrolet
4-J.R. Hildebrand, Panther/Chevrolet
18-Justin Wilson, Coyne/Honda
83-Charlie Kimball, Ganassi/Honda
22-Oriol Servia, Panther+DRR/Chevrolet
6-Katherine Legge, Dragon/Chevrolet
14-Mike Conway, Foyt/Honda
19-James Jakes, Coyne/Honda
11-Tony Kanaan, KVRT/Chevrolet
38-Graham Rahal, Ganassi/Honda
20-Ed Carpenter, ECR/Chevrolet
78-Simona de Silvestro, HVM/Lotus
15-Takuma Sato, RLL/Honda
5-E.J. Viso, KVRT/Chevrolet
77-Simon Pagenaud, SHM/Honda
Quotes used in this article were taken from a transcript of Friday's post-qualifying press conference.
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