Castroneves takes pole, Briscoe second; Patrick confronts Duno

Updated: July 19, 2008, 8:14 PM ET
Associated Press

Castroneves

Castroneves

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Helio Castroneves, still seeking his first IndyCar title, and new teammate Ryan Briscoe took the top two spots in qualifying for the Mid-Ohio 200 on Saturday.

It was first front-row sweep for Penske since Castroneves won the pole and then-teammate Sam Hornish Jr. took the outside spot at Kentucky Speedway in 2006. They were followed by Marco Andretti, IndyCar newcomer Justin Wilson and Tony Kanaan.

Scott Dixon will start sixth on Sunday, exactly where he started last year's race.

Briscoe

Briscoe

But Dixon moved up quickly last year when three of the drivers ahead of him, Andretti Green Racing teammates Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Andretti, were involved in a first-lap accident that eliminated Andretti and put the other two behind.

Dixon eventually wound up playing the fuel economy game better than everyone else and led the last nine laps on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course.

Patrick

Patrick

So far this season, the luck again seems to be going Dixon's way.

Last week, on the 1.5-mile oval at Nashville, Dixon got the word too late to follow leader Tony Kanaan into the pits, inherited the lead and had enough fuel to stay there until rain ended the race with 29 laps left.

"It's tough when his team makes a mistake, or he makes a mistake, and ends up winning the race," Castroneves said. "This guys definitely has some luck but, hopefully, that luck is running out and now it's time for it to turn a little bit for us.

Duno

Duno

"But, we're not counting on that. We're not waiting for something to happen to them. We're just trying to execute and we've got a good chance to win this race, myself or Ryan, and hopefully take some points from Scott and get closer in the championship."

In IndyCar's new knockout-style road course qualifying, with drivers eliminated in two rounds before a final Firestone Fast Six session determines the front of the grid, Patrick -- who started second a year ago -- didn't make it out of the first round. She will start 20th on the 26-car grid.

Since her first IndyCar Series victory on April 20 in Japan, Patrick has mostly struggled to be competitive. Her fifth-place finish last Saturday night at Nashville was her first top-five since Motegi. And Patrick was hoping it would be the catalyst for a big finish to the 2008 season.

"The car was pretty fast during practice this morning, but I was unable to find the speed that I needed during qualifying," Patrick said. "I'm disappointed that I didn't qualify better, knowing that I started on the front row last year.

"But there are some areas of the course where I will be able to make some passes. It's a long race, so, hopefully, I can work my way up the field."

Another disappointed driver was Dan Wheldon, who has two victories this year and is also chasing his second IndyCar championship. The Englishman also failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying and will start 13th.

Patrick, who started a career-best second here a year ago, was 11th in the morning practice.

After getting out of her car, Patrick quickly walked to where Milka Duno, the only other woman racing here this weekend, was pitted and confronted the less experienced driver about getting in her way several times during the practice.

The confrontation lasted only about a minute, but witnesses said it grew heated and that Duno flung a towel in Patrick's direction at one point as the two exchanged words. Patrick eventually walked away.

Patrick, who has previously confronted Wheldon and Briscoe after racing incidents, brushed off the latest dustup, saying, "I just wanted to know if she saw me out there."

Duno was not immediately available for comment.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press