Hornish Hot In Milwaukee

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - In the 102-year history of The Milwaukee Mile, a who’s-who of racing luminaries have competed – and prevailed – on the tricky oval. Foyt, Mears, Unser to name a few familiar to IndyCar Series fans and Indianapolis 500 faithful.

As a team, Penske Racing stands out. The next generation of the Penske powerful added to the legacy in qualifying for the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt 225 at the Mile (2:30 p.m. EDT July 24 on ESPN and IMS Radio Network Webcast on indycar.com).

Sam Hornish Jr. led a Marlboro Team Penske sweep of the front row with an IndyCar Series track-record lap of 170.296 mph (21.4567 seconds) in the No. 6 Toyota-powered Dallara. Helio Castroneves followed (170.219; 21.4665) in the No. 3 car.

It was a record eighth pole for Roger Penske (of 152 through his long and illustrious career) at the track on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair Park, and the third of the season for Hornish.

“With how quickly he went this morning, we knew that Helio was going to be our main competition for the pole today,” said Hornish, who was just off his teammate’s 21.3460-second (171.180 mph) pace in the session. “We just went out there and put up the best lap that we could. There was a little bit more push than what we wanted in the car, but it was good enough to do what we needed it to.”

Separated by 0.0098 of a second, both are capable of delivering Penske Racing its sixth victory at the Mile (Rick Mears in 1978, ‘88 and ‘89; Bobby Unser in 1980; and Al Unser Jr. in 1994). It also was the second front-row sweep for the teammates. At Richmond International Raceway a month ago, Hornish started from the pole and Castroneves won the race.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Hornish, runner-up to Dario Franchitti last week at Nashville Superspeedway and a winner on the mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway in March. “We’ve had some things fall through the cracks at Kansas and Richmond, but we look at those days and those are behind us. We move forward from there. It’s days like this where we go out, get a good starting position, we have a good view for the start of the race, and just go out there and run our own pace and hopefully not give ourselves any problems.

“If we go out there and stay out of trouble, we should be OK.”

Hornish posted his speed as the 17th qualifier, setting the stage for drama.

“Starting last, it was nice to know the lap times of everyone,” said Castroneves, who improved 10 places from his 15th starting position at Nashville. “Unfortunately, I had a huge push entering (Turn) 4, even on my fast lap. I couldn't believe it. I'm like, ‘OK, I'm going to try it again.’

“We made some adjustments to the car to try to go fast, and then obviously it went even worse. I was very pleased, surprised by the time. It was so close between me and Sam, with the problems that I had. It was just a shame because obviously you'd like to get the pole. I'm hopeful for the race right now and we can finish like we did in Richmond.”

Tomas Scheckter (169.000) and IndyCar Series points leader Dan Wheldon (168.553) are in Row 2, while Scheckter’s Panther Racing teammate, Buddy Lazier (168.514), and rookie Danica Patrick (167.328) occupy Row 3.

Schecketer and Patrick started from the front row at Nashville (the grid set by combined practice times after rain washed out qualifying), and Lazier started third. But Scheckter, whose streak of three top-10 finishes ended at Nashville (17th after a mechanical failure), wanted more.

“I screwed myself on that run,” he said. “I didn’t realize that I had another lap to go and just backed off. We had such a great car; the Pennzoil guys and Chevrolet did everything they were supposed to do. I just threw it away. I’m very upset with myself at the moment.

“But at least we’re still starting very close to the front and I’ll be able to make up for it early in the race. A lot can happen tomorrow and the good cars always find their way to the front.”

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Darren Manning and Ryan Briscoe did not make qualifying attempts. Manning will start in the last row in the No. 10 Toyota-powered Panoz because of handling problems. In the pre-qualifying practice, Briscoe’s No. 33 Toyota-powered Panoz made contact with the Turn 2 wall. Though he was checked and cleared to drive by the Indy Racing League medical staff, the team decided that the rookie would not compete (see separate qualifications notebook).

Last year, teammate Scott Dixon did not compete after a crash in practice. He will start 13th this year.


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