KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Will Power has been the driver to beat on the IndyCar Series this season, winning two of four races, earning three consecutive poles.
Watching from across the garage, Ryan Briscoe was stewing, waiting for his chance to snatch the spotlight away from his Team Penske teammate.
The Australian took away at least some of the sting with the fastest qualifying speed at Kansas Speedway on Friday, ending Power's bid for a record-tying fourth consecutive pole.
"Jealous I am and I'm ready to start getting my wins as well," Briscoe said.
He's got a good start.
One of the last drivers on a rain-delayed day, Briscoe had a four-lap over speed of 212.145 mph on the 1½-mile oval, earning his ninth career IndyCar pole. He'll start on the front row Saturday with defending Kansas champion Scott Dixon in the 300-mile race.
Heavy rain and hail washed out the first practice session and pushed back the second, leaving drivers with an hour of prep time before qualifying.
Briscoe was good during the practice session, running a half-second slower than Dixon for the second-best time, and only made a slight adjustment before qualifying on a track that seemed to gain more grip throughout the afternoon.
The 26th of 27 qualifiers, Briscoe gained just enough speed to race to his first pole of the season and past his spotlight-hogging teammate.
"The car was fast right out of the truck," said Briscoe, who had struggled in qualifying during previous trips to Kansas. "We did a semi-qualifying run during practice — we were lucky enough to get some clear laps in without traffic — so we were able to get a pretty good idea of where we stood with the gears and downforce. We trimmed out a little bit more between practice and qualifying and it went according to plan."
Defending IndyCar series champ Dario Franchitti will start on the second row with Hideki Mutoh, who bumped up after Dan Wheldon was sent to the back of the field — along with Marco Andretti — for driving under the white line. Power, the series points leader, qualified seventh.
Dixon has a good history at Kansas, winning last year, finishing no worse than four the previous three. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver made some minor changes during practice to gain speed during practice, getting up to 212.694 mph on one of his last laps.
But changes in the hour-hour window before qualifying didn't work; Dixon ended up losing speed instead of gaining it.
"The car just didn't have the speed it had earlier on," he said. "Briscoe seemed to stay consistent and fast. Hopefully, we can find a little bit of that tonight and carry it on to tomorrow."
Once the race starts, there's a decent chance a Team Penske or Target Chip Ganassi driver will end up taking the checkers.
Their drivers have won the past 13 oval races, dating to Tony Kanaan's win for Andretti Autosport at Richmond in 2008, and the past three Kansas champions have come from those teams.
"It's experience," Briscoe said. "On the ovals, it's all about the little things, the fine tuning. With Penske and Ganassi's experience ... we haven't perfected the art, but it's close."
Saturday's race marks the first oval after four on street and road courses to start the season. It's also the last race before the pressure and chaos of the Indianapolis 500.
Kansas is nothing like the bricks of Indy, so drivers and teams won't gain anything from a setup perspective. But it does have a record 27 cars in the field, including several oval newbies, so the drivers can get at least a sense it what it's going to be like on the crowded bricks of Indianapolis.
"Totally different mindset for me, but it is nice to get out on the ovals and kind feel out a couple of the other new drivers and how they're getting on because I think traffic is going to be pretty bad at Indy as well," Dixon said.