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Tagliani tops Franchitti for Texas pole

Fort Worth, TX (Sports Network) - Alex Tagliani's pole win for the May 29 Indianapolis 500 was no fluke.

Tagliani claimed his second straight pole on an oval track in the IZOD IndyCar Series by posting the fastest lap in Friday's qualifying for the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. Driving the No.77 entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Tagliani recorded a two-lap average of 215.186 m.p.h. around the fast 1.5-mile track.

He was the only driver in the record 30-car field for this race that topped the 215 m.p.h. mark.

Last month, Tagliani became the first Canadian to win the pole for the Indy 500. He finished 28th after crashing three-quarters of the way into the race.

"It's a tribute to how much effort and how much love the guys put in the car," said Tagliani, who notched his seventh career IndyCar pole. "I watched them work the last two weeks, and they worked harder than when they brought the car to Indianapolis. That's what a team does. We're going to continue to work hard and bring fast cars to the track.

"Being fast on an oval is great, but I won't be happy until I can stick it to Will [Power] and the Penske cars on a road course. That's my next goal."

Two-time defending series champion Dario Franchitti qualified second at 214.801.

Will Power, the current points leader, took the third spot, followed by Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter. Power led the way in the first practice session, which was held earlier in the day. He holds a 16-point advantage over Franchitti.

"It was a good run out there in the car," Power said. "I was flat and on the white line for both laps."

Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Wade Cunningham, who will make his first start in the series, Ryan Briscoe, the defending race winner, and Danica Patrick qualified sixth through 10th, respectively.

Rookie J.R. Hildebrand, who nearly won the Indy 500, will start 11th. Hildebrand was on his way to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the 500- mile race, but he crashed less than 1,000 feet from the finish line. Dan Wheldon led only the final lap to win the Indy 500 for the second time.

Hildebrand injured his left knee during a promotional event at this track earlier in the week. He was cleared by IndyCar medical officials and had no difficulties driving his car during practice and qualifying.

"I'm fine," he said of his knee. "I'm not having any trouble getting in and out of the car, so it's not going to be an issue."

Saturday night's twin 275-kilometer (171-mile) event at Texas is the first doubleheader for the series in its 16-year history. There were 17 doubleheaders -- nine of them on ovals -- under USAC and CART sanction from 1967-81. Atlanta Motor Speedway held the most recent one on June 28, 1981. Rick Mears won both USAC events there.

The first race at Texas is scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m. (et), and the second one is slated for 10:45 p.m. (et).

Each race at Texas will pay half the points. The driver leading the most laps will receive two bonus points. Tagliani earned a point for winning the pole.

The starting lineup for the final event will be set by a random draw immediately following the first race.

Wheldon will not compete at Texas. He will be at the track, serving as driver analyst for VERSUS' coverage of the race.

06/10 22:45:53 ET


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