Franchitti frustrated by rough Indy 500 qualifying

Dario Franchitti was ticked off.

The defending Indianapolis 500 champ was looking forward to

taking in the Manhattan skyline from atop the Empire State

Building. Instead, after IndyCar’s biggest names lit up the

skyscraper green in honor of the race’s 100th anniversary on a

rainy, windy Monday, all they could see from the 86th floor sky

deck was a blanket of white.

It was nothing compared to the frustration he felt Saturday,

when Franchitti ran out of fuel on the final qualifying lap to

fumble away a spot on the front row.

”It’s a long time since I’ve been that (ticked) off getting out

of the car,” said Franchitti, who will start on the outside of Row

3.

Maybe not since Sonoma in 2007, when a late-race collision with

a teammate cost him his points lead in the series standings.

”And that was only qualifying,” Franchitti said, marveling at

just how much Indy means to drivers and their teams.

A communication breakdown caused the problem, which also

hindered teammate Scott Dixon. After Franchitti’s first run, his

crew drained the tank. But not everybody realized that later, so it

wasn’t completely filled before he went back out.

Franchitti walked off, helmet still on, not doing any

interviews.

”I didn’t want to talk to anybody or speak to anybody or listen

to anybody,” he said. ”I just wanted to go away for a minute. I

didn’t have anything positive to say and I was very angry.”

He went to the truck to change, then to his bus to get a drink

of water. Finally Franchitti talked to his engineer and owner Chip

Ganassi.

”That was it. Done. Let’s move on,” he said.

Franchitti was gracious in talking about the mistake Monday, but

the frustration still rippled in his voice as he described

Saturday’s events.

”We’re the best team in the business,” Franchitti said.

”Everyone makes mistakes now and then, but we’d done all the hard

work. We put ourselves in position to be on the front row, and we

let it slip away. Trust me, that mistake won’t be made again. The

team is so focused. If we can, we’ll make up for it on

Sunday.”

Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves, who joined Franchitti in

New York on Monday, haven’t exactly felt on top of the world either

during the lead-up to Indy.

Patrick failed to qualify Saturday, then almost didn’t get a

chance for one last try on Bump Day when her car failed technical

inspection and she had to wait out the rain.

”I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick to my stomach, so

nauseous and so jittery – ever,” she said.

Not only did Castroneves miss out on an unprecedented third

straight pole, he’ll have his worst starting spot in 11 career

races at Indy at 16th. The three-time champ has also crashed three

times in his first four races.

”Yes, you want to have better results. Yes, you want to start

in the front,” he said. ”But that wasn’t meant to be.”

Both Patrick and Castroneves found a silver lining in the clouds

hovering over the Empire State Building – they couldn’t look down

to see just how high they were.

”I’m afraid of heights, anyway,” she said.