Indy 500: Alex Tagliani Speeds Way to 100th Anniversary Pole

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIMay 22, 2011

Tagliani with team owner Sam Schmidt
Tagliani with team owner Sam SchmidtJonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Alex Tagliani stole the show today, as brief rain showers couldn't slow Alex from claiming his first ever pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in just his third career 500.

Alex was the provisional pole winner before a brief shower rained down on the Speedway around 3:30 P.M local time.  The scheduled qualifying time to end before the Firestone Fast Nine was 4:00 P.M. 

At 4:15 P.M the Speedway announced that the top 24 was locked in and the top nine drivers would move onto the Firestone Fast Nine once the track was dry.

Tagliani was talking amongst his crew members that he was hoping that a washout would happen,and he would just get handed the pole.  To his dismay, the track workers got the track dry, and the Firestone Fast Nine started at precisely 5:25 P.M with the No. 44 Panther Racing Honda of Buddy Rice being the first driver out.

Since qualifying was scheduled to end at 6:00 P.M, the Izod Indy Car Series gave the nine drivers one shot at the pole instead of the hour-and-a-half they were scheduled to get.

As stated before, Buddy Rice was the first car out and blistered to a four lap average of 225.786 MPH.

The next qualifier, Spaniard Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Hass Honda, set the bar high with four laps that were the fastest of the month so far.  His four-lap average was 227.168 MPH.  That stood up until Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti was threatening his Servia's pole run.  Dario was second quick after his third lap and was on pace to be close to the pole but ran out of gas coming out of turn three.

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Dario putted his way to pit road, and angrily climbed out of his machine and walked all the way to his motor home with his helmet and hans device on.  He will start ninth.

The next qualifier was Dario's teammate, Scott Dixon.  Scott's four lap run was exhilarating, and grabbed him the pole with a four lap average of 227.340.

That left one driver left in the fast nine—Alex Tagliani. The crowed roared each time his No. 77 Bowers and Wilkens Honda zoomed by.  Alex's 227.472 MPH average grabbed him an emotional pole that sealed a great pole day.

The best performance in my mind was Switzerland's Simona de Silvestro.  Simona escaped a scary and fiery practice crash on Thursday in which she sustained second degree burns on her hands.  She wasn't cleared by series doctors until this morning, and withstood two bump attempts to put her car in the show.  What's even more surprising is the car is a 2003 version and weighs 15-20 pounds more than the others.

Tomorrow's qualifying action starts at noon and should be one of the best days besides race day at the Speedway.  Many full-time Izod Indy Car Series favorites still are not in the field.

All four Andretti Autosport cars were disappointing today.  Two of the drivers, Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay, were so far off they may not even make the field of 33.  Fan favorite Danica Patrick and third-generation driver Marco Andretti must make solid runs tomorrow or they're out themselves.

Fellow Penske driver Ryan Briscoe couldn't get his backup car up to speed either.  Ryan wrecked in the morning practice session in turn two, and had to revert to his back up.  The back up wasn't among the top 24 today, and he must qualify on time tomorrow.

The surprise not in the top 24 was Graham Rahal.  He's been solid all week in the top 10 on the speed charts everyday, but he couldn't muster up enough speed, and must qualify tomorrow as well.

Drivers that must qualify tomorrow are as follows: Ganassi's Charlie Kimball, and Graham Rahal, Andretti Autosports Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, Mike Conway, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Penske's Ryan Briscoe, Raphael Matos, Conquest's Pippa Mann, and Sebastian Saveedra, Dale Coyne's Alex Lloyd and James Jakes, Ana Beatriz, Paul Tracy, and Dragon Racing's Ho Pin Tung and Scott Speed.

That list of drivers is very solid, and surprising.  Only nine of those drivers will make it tomorrow, so there will be some big names not in the show.  That will make tomorrow a very interesting and tense day at the Speedway.

Here are the top 24.

1. 77 Alex Tagliani

2. 9 Scott Dixon

3. 2 Oriol Servia

4. 99 Townsend Bell

5. 12 Will Power

6. 98 Dan Wheldon

7. 44 Buddy Rice

8. 67 Ed Carpenter

9. 10 Dario Franchitti

10. 5 Takuma Sato

11. 14 Vitor Meira

12. 4 J.R. Hildebrand (R)

13. 06 James Hinchcliffe (R)

14. 30 Bertrand Baguette

15. 11 Davey Hamilton

16. 3 Helio Castroneves

17. 43 John Andretti

18. 59 E.J. Viso

19. 41 Bruno Junqueria

20. 22 Justin Wilson

21. 88 Jay Howard (R)

22. 07 Tomas Scheckter

23. 82 Tony Kanaan

24. 78 Simona de Silvestro

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