By Gary Graves
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Once again, Chip Ganassi Racing will start the Indianapolis 500 packed close together.
Unfortunately, for the foursome, that proximity is in the middle of the pack.
Hopes of cracking the top nine and claiming a front-row view were quashed Saturday during pole qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a gaggle of faster Chevrolets left Ganassi’s Hondas behind as the first 24 slots were decided.
Defending champion Dario Franchitti was 17th after posting a four-lap average of 226.069 mph in his No. 10 Honda. Teammate Scott Dixon was one spot better in the No. 9 at 226.158.
Charlie Kimball was 19th in Ganassi’s No. 83 (225.880), and Ryan Briscoe’s third attempt claimed 23rd for the No. 8 (225.265).
Of course, Franchitti and Dixon started far back last year before finishing 1-2.
And Franchitti, the three-time Indy champion, believes CGR is capable of another recovery on May 26.
“If we’re going to be in a difficult spot, these are the guys I’d like to be with,” Franchitti said. “They’ve proven time and time again they can get out of it, whether it’s championship runs or Indy 500s. When the pressure’s on, these are the guys you want.”
Franchitti just wishes the team didn’t have to climb out of another hole.
As a whole, the Hondas were no match for the Chevys, which claimed the top 10 spots with Ed Carpenter claiming the pole at 228.762. Alex Tagliani had the fastest Honda, clocking 227.386 in Barracuda Racing’s No. 98 for the 11th position.
Ganassi’s challenges were apparent from the start of qualifying as Dixon went out first after a 2 1/2 hour rain delay. While it wasn’t shocking that subsequent entrants beat the 2005 Indy 500 champion’s four-lap average of 226.158 as track conditions improved, seeing Dixon ultimately left 16th was a bit of a surprise.