NASCAR & Auto Racing

Briscoe tops IRL qualifying

Ryan Briscoe had a lot to think about as the 26th of 27 drivers attempting to qualify for today's IZOD Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.

As he sat strapped in his car toward the end of Friday's qualifying session, Briscoe heard the public address announcer introduce Scott Dixon.

"Certainly the adrenaline was going while I was sitting there listening them introduce Scott," Briscoe said, "and I heard them say, 'He's got 16 (career) poles, and he's going for No. 17.'

"I said, 'No, that can't happen.' "

And it didn't. Briscoe, driving for Team Penske, ripped off a fastest lap of 212.158 mph and claimed his first pole of the season and ninth of his career, not to mention a $10,000 bonus.

Dixon, who won last year's race at Kansas Speedway for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, will sit in the second position after qualifying in 211.298 mph.

"We anticipated that Scott would be the one to beat for the pole looking at his practice this morning," Briscoe said.

Indeed, Dixon posted the fastest time of 212.694 in Friday's practice, which was pushed back from a scheduled 10 a.m. start to 2:30 because of rain. Briscoe was right behind at 212.104.

When qualifying began at 5:15, Dixon, who was the 21st to take the track, was ready to qualify for the first oval race of the season after four street/road course events.

"The weather changed things today," said Dixon, who won poles at Kansas Speedway in 2003 and 2008. "The car felt really good. We made some minor changes, and we seemed to gain a little bit from the first part of the practice session to the end part.

"You could tell right from the start it was going to be Briscoe and probably my teammate Dario (Franchitti) would be fighting for the pole."

Franchitti was fourth (211.236) behind two-time Kansas winner Dan Wheldon (211.242). But Wheldon and Marco Andretti, who had qualified 11th were penalizing for driving below the white line and will start today's race from the rear of the pack.

Briscoe feels he has some unfinished business at Kansas Speedway. He led 53 laps in last year's race before losing the lead with 46 laps to go and settled for fourth place.

"Last year was a great race for me," Briscoe said. "We were unlucky. Coming into the last pit stop, a yellow came out as we were committed, and we weren't allowed to make our stop, so we had to drive through the pits and lost a bunch of track position.

"You never know what would have happened. But we were definitely a contender last year for the win. We've improved our qualifying performance, so if I can have at least as good a race as far as performance as last year, and maybe a bit of luck on our side, we'll see what happens."

Dixon, meanwhile, exudes confidence at Kansas Speedway, where he has had three straight top-four finishes.

"Kansas has been a standout for our team," said Dixon, a two-time series champion. "We try to come here every year hoping we can have a great result, and getting some good points, and going into the month of May, it's always good for team morale and some confidence. When Kansas pops up on the schedule, it's always a nice place to come for us."