Wheldon Wins Kansas Pole
July 1, 2006 | 3:59 A.M. EST
Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Marlboro Team Penske again dominated qualifying, sweeping the top two rows for the race, that takes the green flag at noon (CDT, ABC).
Wheldon took his third career pole with a lap of 25.6257 seconds, 213.536 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara, the slowest pole speed in the track’s six-year history. Danica Patrick, who qualified 12th on Saturday, won the 2005 pole award with a lap of 214.668 mph. Wheldon's last pole was at Twin Ring Motegi in early 2004.
Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. ran a lap of 213.372 mph, and will sit on the outside of the front row.
On the second row are Ganassi’s Scott Dixon, 212.533 mph, and Penske’s Helio Castroneves, 212.472 mph. Both of the Penske drivers have three poles in 2006 competition, with Andretti Green Racing’s Dario Franchitti earning the remaining pole.
Kosuke Matsuura will start fifth for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, 212.404 mph, followed by Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira, 212.146 mph. Rounding out the top 10 are Buddy Lazier, Tomas Scheckter, Buddy Rice and Scott Sharp.
Rookie Marco Andretti led the four-car Andretti Green effort with an 11th-best qualifying lap of 209.884 mph.
Meira, who came up inches short in a three-wide finish last year and was second at Kansas Speedway two years ago, was fastest in Saturday’s practice with a lap of 212.917 mph. Meira is currently fifth in the standings, trailing the four Penske and Ganassi drivers.
“We are happy with the season so far, but the best is yet to come,” said Meira, who scored his sixth career runner-up finish last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. “Kansas Speedway is a track that I like very much and I’ve been so close here the past two years. Of course I want to win every race, but even when you are second and third in those photo finishes, the fact that you are in the photo means that you had a good race. We discovered some things in the test we had here, and that is going to help make us stronger this weekend.”
After seven of the 14 races, Castroneves has 252 points, five ahead of Hornish. Dixon is third, 23 points back, with Wheldon 35 points in arrears. Meira trails by 60 points, followed by Tony Kanaan and Scott Sharp.