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INDY Tagliani Scores Upset Pole Day

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May 21, 2011

On a day when the major IZOD IndyCar Series teams stumbled, Alex Tagliani and his Sam Schmidt Motorsports team prevailed on Saturday to claim the pole for next weekend's 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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The threat of afternoon rain, which finally arrived just before 4 p.m. EDT, contributed to an action-filled day at the Brickyard that started with a bang, literally, as Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe crashed his primary car in the morning practice and was unable to make a successful qualifying run in his backup car. Of the three Team Penske entries, only Will Power qualified for the final-round shootout of the top nine qualifiers. Annual pole favorite Helio Castroneves will start 16th.

Among the other 13 drivers bumped from the first-day field were Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick for Andretti Autosport; and Chip Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal.

Drivers initially bumped from the field who successfully re-qualified included Simona de Silvestro, in her backup car after suspension failure and a resulting hard crash destroyed her primary car on Thursday; John Andretti; former pole qualifier Bruno Junqueira and Tomas Scheckter.

A brief rain shower fell just as first-round qualifying to set the first 24 starting positions ended at 4:30 p.m. After a one-hour delay to dry the 2.5-mile oval, the final-round shootout took place to set the top nine starters, with each of the top nine from the first qualifying run getting one additional run at the pole.

Veteran Oriol Servia set the early pace, moving up from eighth in his first qualifying run with an impressive four-lap average of 227.168 mph. Later, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon appeared to have enough speed to claim the pole, but both ran short of fuel - Franchitti at the start of his final lap, which left him unable to post a speed, and Dixon as he finished his fourth and final lap. As a result, Dixon will start second and Franchitti, ninth.

As the final qualifier, Alex Tagliani found even more speed from his morning run, and his four-lap average of 227.472 mph was more than enough to edge Dixon and claim his first Indianapolis 500 pole, and the first for the new Sam Schmidt Motorsports team, which at the start of 2011 took over the FAZZT Racing Team effort co-founded just last year by Tagliani.

Qualifying at the speedway concludes tomorrow, with Bump Day qualifying to set the final nine starting positions for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500. Television coverage again will be provided by Versus, beginning at noon EDT.
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Alex Tagliani (#77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Honda) Indianapolis 500 pole qualifier, his first Indy pole: "I'm really, really thankful for the amount of work this team has accomplished. I'm grateful to Rob [Edwards, team manager] and Alan [MacDonald, engineer] and everyone for taking a chance and joining the adventure last year. This is a reward for all their effort. For Sam [Schmidt, team owner] as well, he got involved and helped to continue it. He's an amazing team leader and this is a great result for him. I hope there's more to come."

Starting Grid (so far)

1 Alex Tagliani
2 Scott Dixon
3 Oriol Servia
4 Townsend Bell
5 Will Power
6 Dan Wheldon
7 Buddy Rice
8 Ed Carpenter
9 Dario Franchitti
10 Takuma Sato
11 Vitor Meira
12 J.R. Hildebrand
13 James Hinchcliffe
14 Bertrand Baguette
15 Davey Hamilton
16 Helio Castroneves
17 John Andretti
18 E.J. Viso
19 Bruno Junqueira
20 Justin Wilson
21 Jay Howard
22 Tomas Scheckter
23 Tony Kanaan
24 Simona De Silvestro

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