Franchitti on pole for Saturday's Milwaukee IndyFest

Photo by Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Tune in to ABC at 1PM Eastern to see the Milwaukee IndyFest, the halfway point in the IZOD IndyCar season. Dario Franchitti earned his first pole of 2012 and his 27th career pole, tying him with Al Unser on the all-time list.

"I am very pleased as much as I am surprised. That's quite a turnaround from practice. Practice is one thing, qualifying is another and then there is the race," Franchitti said.

Franchitti, four-time series champion, sits sixth in points but could gain an advantage because of the misfortune of the top two in 2012 points. Will Power and Scott Dixon each qualified well, but must take a 10 position grid penalty for unapproved engine changes. Justin Wilson, winner of last week's Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway qualified fast enough for outside the front row but must drop back 10 spots. Rookie Josef Newgarden, Ryan Briscoe, Takuma Sato and Mike Conway also received 10-spot penalties for changing engines before the allotted mileage expired.

The Milwaukee Mile hosts the open-wheel series this weekend because of the efforts of Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport. The track was in danger of falling off the schedule because of poor promotion in previous years.

Wilson spent the week mired in controversy when his Dale Coyne Racing Honda was found in post-race inspection to have unapproved parts. He was docked 5 points and Coyne fined $7500 for having a pod piece previously approved for the race but banned before race day. The No. 18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q car qualified only 17th with the part, which also slipped through pre-race inspections. The penalty was a light one because INDYCAR deemed that the part in question didn't provide much, if any, advantage to Wilson during the race.

Ed Carpenter Racing also face a $5,000 fine and the loss of one point on Carpenter's No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet for having a wicker taller than the 1/8-inch that INDYCAR allowed just prior to Saturday's race.

Finally, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage declined INDYCAR's offer to host the season finale for the series. When promoters cancelled the August 19 race in Qingdao, China, the series asked Gossage if he would step in and host a race in October. "We appreciate INDYCAR reaching out to us for that opportunity, but there were numerous issues and obstacles to overcome to successfully promote the event like the past 23 IZOD IndyCar Series events we have hosted here," Gossage said. "Our focus during that fall period - ranging from operations to marketing - is squarely on the November 1-4 AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend, especially with it being a key Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. We couldn't justify dividing resources between the two events to make it happen and it would be an injustice to both due to the scheduling."

Other tracks mentioned for the slot are Pocono, Road America, Phoenix, and Michigan. Las Vegas Motor Speedway management offered to host, but CEO Randy Bernard "politely declined."

Starting Position/Car #/Driver  
*10-position grid penalty at start 
1 10 Dario Franchitti
2 18 Justin Wilson *
3 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay
4 12 Will Power*
5 8 Rubens Barrichello
6 3 Helio Castroneves
7 67 Josef Newgarden *
8 5 E.J. Viso
9 2 Ryan Briscoe
10 11 Tony Kanaan
11 9 Scott Dixon *
12 77 Simon Pagenaud
13 27 James Hinchcliffe
14 15 Takuma Sato*  
15 26 Marco Andretti
16 4 JR Hildebrand
17 38 Graham Rahal
18 98 Alex Tagliani
19 6 Katherine Legge
20 19 James Jakes
21 83 Charlie Kimball
22 22 Oriol Servia
23 20 Ed Carpenter
24 78 Simona de Silvestro
25 14 Mike Conway*
Franchitti on pole for Saturday's Milwaukee IndyFest Franchitti on pole for Saturday's Milwaukee IndyFest Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Saturday, June 16, 2012 Rating: 5