In a shocking twist ( ), Ganassi and Penske will be filling out the first two rows for the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. 2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti will start on the inside of row 1, while teammate and 2008 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will start on the outside. 2009 Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves sits on the inside of row 2, while his teammate, the current points leader Ryan Briscoe, occupies the outside.
What is actually surprising is the rest of the field. Starting 7th is E.J. Viso, who has been having an awful season, failing to complete a single race thus far. Starting 9th is Tomas Scheckter, who is always fast, but has found himself on a mid-tier team. He moved up several spots on the opening lap last weekend at Iowa, and stands to give Dreyer & Reinbold a shot at finishing in the top 5 and eventually contending for wins as the season progresses. What was traditionally the third of the big teams in the series, Andretti Green has its drivers scattered through the field, with Hideki Mutoh, coming off a third place finish at Iowa, starting 8th, Danica Patrick 10th, and Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan starting 16th and 17th. And back to the non-surprising, Jaques Lazier starts in last place, 14 mph off pole pace.
Here’s how they’ll line up tomorrow:
1 - Dario Franchitti #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing 167.315 mph
2 - Scott Dixon #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing 166.638 mph
3 - Helio Castroneves #3 Team Penske 165.931 mph
4 - Ryan Briscoe #6 Team Penske 165.749 mph
5 - Graham Rahal #02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing 165.218 mph
6 - Raphael Matos #2 Luczo Dragon Racing 164.928 mph
7 - E.J. Viso #13 HVM Racing 164.629 mph
8 - Hideki Mutoh #27 Andretti Green Racing 164.575 mph
9 - Tomas Scheckter #23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 164.441 mph
10 - Danica Patrick #7 Andretti Green Racing 164.197 mph
11 - Mike Conway #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 164.129 mph
12 - Robert Doornbos #06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing 164.071 mph
13 - Dan Wheldon #4 Panther Racing 163.843 mph
14 - Ed Carpenter #20 Vision Racing 163.824 mph
15 - Justin Wilson #18 Dale Coyne Racing 163.506 mph
16 - Marco Andretti #26 Andretti Green Racing 162.780 mph
17 - Tony Kanaan #11 Andretti Green Racing 162.634 mph
18 - Ryan Hunter-Reay #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises 162.506 mph
19 - Mario Moraes #5 KV Racing Technology 160.895 mph
20 - Jaques Lazier #98 CURB/Agajanian/Team 3G 153.176 mph
So far this year has been a battle between Penske and Ganassi. This race doesn’t seem likely to change that, with those two teams occupying the first four positions. Graham Rahal has been inconsistent this year on the ovals, finishing 7th at Kansas, 31st at Indianapolis, 4th at Milwaukee, 22nd at Texas, and 11th last week at Iowa. E.J. Viso looks poised to have a good run, but his lack of even a finish this year is troubling. Tomas Scheckter’s presence has quickly turned fortunes around at Dreyer & Reinbold, but they are still a mid-level team at best, and it will take a hell of a performance from either of their drivers to make the top 5, let alone win. And the best shot at breaking through to a victory, Panther Racing, sits in 13th position, 4 mph slower than the pole sitter. Andretti Green continues to be inconsistent among the team, with two drivers in the first ten spots, and two in the back of the field.
It should be an interesting race, at least. Last week’s race at Iowa was the most competitive since the road courses to start the season, hopefully that same competitiveness carries over to Richmond. The race will be broadcast on VERSUS beginning at 8:00 pm on Saturday.