Ryan Hunter-Reay may have won the pole for the Edmonton Indy and he may have earned himself a bonus championship point to push his gap over Will Power to 35 points. But both of them will be starting from deep in the field on Sunday.
Hunter-Reay and Power will both have to absorb 10-spot grid penalties for changing engines on their cars; Hunter-Reay for switching after his victory two weekends ago in Toronto and Power for switching after Saturday's qualifying to attain an updated spec on his engine.
As a result, Hunter-Reay will be starting 11th and hand the pole position to Dario Franchitti, who qualified 2nd. Meanwhile, Power will start 17th after qualifying seventh -- a sub-par result by Power's standards that was caused by Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe bumping him out of the Firestone Fast Six on the final lap of Round 2. Briscoe wound up third in the FF6, and with Hunter-Reay's penalty, he'll slide into the outside of the front row alongside Franchitti.
Scott Dixon (qualified 8th), Oriol Servia (qualified 20th), and Simona de Silvestro (qualified 23rd) will also incur 10-spot penalties for engine swaps, joining Hunter-Reay and Power in that regard. But Hunter-Reay tried to stay upbeat after winning his first pole since Milwaukee in 2004.
"It's certainly unfortunate to take the grid penalty with our first pole this year, my first pole in a long time -- but we'll take it for sure," said Hunter-Reay, who has won the last three races. "[Starting] 11th is better than starting 15th or 16th.
"We also saved a set of [Firestone] reds in there. We went on used reds that last run, so that was another bonus for us."
As for Power, he blamed "not playing the weather correctly" for not being able to advance into the Firestone Fast Six. Rainfall hit the City Center Airport course in time for Round 2 of qualifying, but the track quickly dried out.
"It sprinkled enough to use the wets [tires], but then created a dry line pretty quick," said Power, who has won twice at Edmonton but has earned just one top-5 finish in his last six races. "I should have known better there as the fastest laps were coming at the end. Tomorrow will be a great challenge and we need to have a good result."
Both of them have big drives ahead of them in order to catch up to Franchitti, who came within one one-hundredth of a second to Hunter-Reay's time in the FF6 but will still be at the front on Sunday.
"It'd be nice to have a decent race, because we've had some good qualifying performances," said Franchitti, who looks to finish a rough campaign on a high note in the final few races. "But our races have -- we've had incidents and all kinds of crazy stuff happening, so it'd be nice to have a day free of incidents and try to have a good result."
His front row companion Briscoe has also been up-and-down in 2012, and he too is looking for better days.
"It's good to be starting at the front," the Australian said. "We have lots of guests here from [sponsor] Hitachi; we need to win for them and for myself."
The official starting grid will be finalized after tomorrow morning's warmup session at 10 a.m. ET. Below are today's qualifying results with those absorbing grid penalties in italics:
|1. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Chevy, 01:17.2338 (103.664)|
|2. (10) Dario Franchitti, Ganassi-Honda, 01:17.2446 (103.650)|
|3. (2) Ryan Briscoe, Penske-Chevy, 01:17.4238 (103.410)|
|4. (15) Takuma Sato, KVRT-Honda, 01:17.5526 (103.238)|
|5. (98) Alex Tagliani, BHA-Honda, 01:17.6139 (103.157)|
|6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 01:17.6401 (103.122)|
|7. (12) Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 01:27.5666 (91.432)|
|8. (9) Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Honda, 01:27.7001 (91.293)|
|9. (77) Simon Pagenaud, SHM-Honda, 01:27.8410 (91.147)|
|10. (8) Rubens Barrichello, KVRT-Chevy, 01:28.2521 (90.722)|
|11. (38) Graham Rahal, Ganassi-Honda, 01:28.6737 (90.291)|
|12. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Chevy, 01:28.7409 (90.222)|
|13. (18) Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 01:16.6190 (104.496)|
|14. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon-Chevy, 01:16.9747 (104.013)|
|15. (67) Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, 01:16.7533 (104.313)|
|16. (19) James Jakes, Coyne-Honda, 01:16.9900 (103.993)|
|17. (26) Marco Andretti, Andretti-Chevy, 01:16.9881 (103.995)|
|18. (5) EJ Viso, KVRT-Chevy, 01:16.9920 (103.990)|
|19. (83) Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Honda, 01:17.0078 (103.969)|
|20. (22) Oriol Servia, Panther+DRR-Chevy, 01:17.3906 (103.454)|
|21. (4) JR Hildebrand, Panther-Chevy, 01:17.5285 (103.270)|
|22. (11) Tony Kanaan, KVRT-Chevy, 01:17.5441 (103.250)|
|23. (78) Simona de Silvestro, HVM-Lotus, 01:17.9789 (102.674)|
|24. (20) Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 01:17.6918 (103.053)|
|25. (14) Mike Conway, Foyt-Honda, 01:18.8781 (101.503)|