Franchitti takes pole for race one of Toronto double

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Dario Franchitti took his third Verizon P1 Award of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season on Friday at the Honda Indy Toronto, around the 1.765-mile Exhibition Place street circuit.

Franchitti, back in a normal red Target livery adorning his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, lapped the track in 59.6756 seconds – one of two drivers to lap under one minute in the session.

Sebastien Bourdais registered his best starting position since his return to IndyCar in 2011, second in the No. 7 TrueCar/McAfee Dragon Racing Chevrlet, at a lap of 59.7701.

Will Power (Team Penske) and Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology – SH) are next up ahead of James Jakes (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Scott Dixon (Ganassi). Jakes will take a 10-position grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after Pocono.

Beyond the top six, the big surprise of qualifying was that no Andretti Autosport cars advanced to the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2013. The first three races of the year, only one of the four cars made it into the Fast Six.

Once Q2 was complete, the two remaining Andretti cars were knocked out with Ryan Hunter-Reay in seventh and Marco Andretti 11th. Takuma Sato lost his two fastest laps when he caused a red flag for nosing into the Turn 1 barriers.

Both Canadians, James Hinchcliffe (14th) and Alex Tagliani (17th) failed to advance out of Q1. Other notables who missed out include both Detroit race winners, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud, youngsters Josef Newgarden and Tristan Vautier, who were both in the top five in practice, 2012 Toronto runner-up Charlie Kimball and Andretti’s fourth car E.J. Viso, who posted a string of six straight top-five starts from Brazil through Milwaukee.

Race one of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader begins with live coverage Saturday on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET, and will also be live streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Hondy Indy Toronto Race 1
Starting Lineup with Starting Tire Choice

Row 1
10-Dario Franchitti (Alternate)
7-Sebastien Bourdais (Primary)

Row 2
12-Will Power (Alternate)
11-Tony Kanaan (Alternate)

Row 3
9-Scott Dixon (Alternate)
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay (Alternate)

Row 4
3-Helio Castroneves (Alternate)
19-Justin Wilson (Primary)

Row 5
4-Ryan Briscoe (Alternate)
25-Marco Andretti (Alternate)

Row 6
14-Takuma Sato (Primary)
77-Simon Pagenaud (Alternate)

Row 7
27-James Hinchcliffe (Primary)
5-E.J. Viso (Primary)

Row 8
16-James Jakes* (Alternate)
83-Charlie Kimball (Primary)

Row 9
98-Alex Tagliani (Alternate)
15-Graham Rahal (Alternate)

Row 10
67-Josef Newgarden (Alternate)
18-Mike Conway (Primary)

Row 11
55-Tristan Vautier (R) (Alternate)
78-Simona de Silvestro (Alternate)

Row 12
20-Ed Carpenter (Alternate)
6-Sebastian Saavedra (Primary)

*Denotes 10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change

Danica Patrick to sign off driving career at 2018 Indy 500

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With her full-time career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now coming to an end, following the end of the 2017 season this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Danica Patrick is embarking on a new path in 2018 with the two biggest 500-mile races in North America.

Patrick confirmed plans to participate in North America’s most marquee 500-mile races, the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, during a press conference today in Miami. A team for the Indianapolis 500 has not been determined, and her options for the Daytona 500 are limited to NASCAR teams with three or fewer full-time cars, because a four-car full-time team cannot enter a fifth for the Daytona 500.

Patrick ended her full-time career in IndyCar after 2011 to head to NASCAR. She drove 10 races in 2012 before her first full Cup season in 2013, where she won the pole for that year’s Daytona 500 and ultimately finished eighth.

Her Cup career has seen her finish between 24th and 28th in points with seven career top-10 finishes, all between sixth and 10th place. She ranks 27th heading into this week’s finale too.

It was her IndyCar career though where she first entered the national conversation after a few years of apprenticeship driving for Bobby Rahal’s Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic teams. A fourth place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 with a number of laps led launched her into the racing stratosphere and helped produce the Indianapolis 500’s biggest rating in years.

Ultimately her best finish in the ‘500 in seven starts was third place in 2009, behind Helio Castroneves and the late Dan Wheldon.

She won at Motegi, 2008, for her first and only win in IndyCar.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, makes a pit stop during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

A visibly emotional Patrick announced this was the end of her full-time driving career to kick off the press conference, but switched to her future plans once she got through the opening remarks.

Patrick “never thought” she’d do the Indianapolis 500 again but when tossing around future ideas, the concept of running both Daytona and Indianapolis came up.

“I never thought I would do it. I always thought never, but I never said never. Here I am,” she said.

“Out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ That was really the first sort of idea that got me excited. Let’s do it. I called Haley (Moore, longtime PR rep). What did I just say I would do? She said, ‘Hell yes that’s a good idea.’

“I’m still surprised.”

Patrick will need to participate in the Indianapolis 500 refresher program for drivers that aren’t full-time drivers, so that will provide her a couple hours additional track time before practice opens to the full field in mid-May.

The new 2018 Dallara universal body kit comes into being this year too, and Patrick thinks she has improved as a driver over the last six seasons to be able to come back.

“(Going) 240… it’ll be no problem,” she deadpanned. “It’ll take a bit of adjusting. It’s different for sure. But I think I’m a better driver now. It’ll take a bit of acclimating. Yeah, I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”

Patrick said running the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 “could” occur with her same teams she last ran with full-time, Stewart-Haas Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively. But her options remain open for both.