Andretti edges Rahal to become youngest IndyCar pole winner

Updated: May 31, 2008, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Sixteen years after their fathers last sat side-by-side on the front row of an open-wheel race, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal matched the feat.

It was July 1992 when Bobby Rahal beat out Michael Andretti for the pole at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The family order was reversed Saturday, with 21-year-old Marco Andretti knocking 19-year-old Graham Rahal off the pole in qualifying for the ABC Supply A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile.

Rookie Rahal, driving in only the fourth oval event of his career, was a surprise, taking the top spot midway through the session with a four-lap qualifying average of 167.654 mph. That was good enough to remain on top of the grid until Andretti, 25th of the 26 drivers making qualifying attempts, turned a 168.079.

"I gave up a little on the first lap, hoping that it would hang very good for the next three laps, and it definitely was able to," Andretti said. "But, having said that, it was very on the edge on the last lap. It was just right and you have to get it just right to beat these guys."

Andretti, winning the first pole of his career, became the youngest IndyCar pole winner at 21 years, 79 days, breaking the record of 21 years, 260 days set by Tomas Scheckter in 2002 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Rahal, who earlier this year became the youngest IndyCar driver to win a race when he took the checkered flag on the street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla., had never run on the suburban Milwaukee track until Thursday afternoon's special one-hour practice for rookies and other drivers transitioning from the defunct Champ Car World Series.

"Obviously, the rookie practice yesterday helped, especially to get a little more familiar with the track," Rahal said. "The car was really good. ... As Marco just said, it feels like it's on the edge at all times. But it seems like, to go fast, that's the way these things have to be."

Looking ahead to the race, Rahal, driving for eight-time Champ Car/CART champion Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, added, "I think it's good to run up with the guys that are obviously very competitive in this series and have won a lot of races here in the past.

"I think that's the way that you want to learn. You want to learn from the guys that run up front rather than the guys that run in back. That's what we're going to try to do tomorrow."

Asked if he remembered any good on-track battles between his father and Marco's father, Rahal said, "As kids, we didn't think about that too much. It was more about playing in the dirt at the race track, rather than caring about what was going on on the race track.

"But it's going to be pretty cool for a lot of fans and a lot of people that have been fans of open-wheel racing for a long time to see these two names back up front, No. 1, and racing against each other."

Andretti, who also won a race as an IndyCar rookie in 2006, agreed, noting, "I think it's very special to see how we're able to carry it on. Obviously, we both have a lot of unfinished business. He's just getting started and, well, so am I to an extent."

Scott Dixon, coming off a victory last Sunday at Indy, qualified third, followed by IRL rookie and transitional driver Will Power, last year's Milwaukee pole-winner Helio Castroneves and two-time defending race winner Tony Kanaan. Fan favorite Danica Patrick will start 13th.

Vitor Meira, the runner-up at Indy, crashed during his qualifying run. He was diagnosed with a mild neck strain and was to be re-evaluated by the IRL medical staff Sunday morning to determine if he would be allowed to race.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press