NASCAR & Auto Racing

Open-wheelers Franchitti, Speed will start 6th, 7th in Friday's ARCA race

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Dario Franchitti, in his first official day in a stock car, qualified sixth Thursday for the ARCA RE/MAX 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The reigning IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, who this week signed a multiyear contract to drive in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, will make his race debut Friday.

“My initial impression of Talladega was from two years ago when we were flying to Nashville and we went off course because of the weather,” said the Scot, who lives in Tennessee with actress wife Ashley Judd. “We flew over the track, and it was just huge.

“Everything about Talladega is big. The banking is big, the track is big. We flew in last night, and it was just getting dark and all the lights were on, and again it was, ‘Oh my God, look at the size of that track.’ It’s an intimidating place.”

But Franchitti didn’t appear to be intimidated by the 2.66-mile oval as he posted a lap of 183.740 mph. The pole went to Bryan Clausen, a developmental driver for Ganassi, at 184.840.

Scott Speed, another open-wheel driver making the move to stock cars, was right behind Franchitti in seventh at 183.480.

Speed, the only American racing in Formula One before losing his ride with Scuderia Toro Rosso, has announced plans for a full-time ARCA schedule in 2008.