Drama on the grid

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:59 PM ET

It's not often that focus of an auto race is back in the pack. But the TV people will probably have to dedicate an extra camera today to the middle of the pack for the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Spit could happen there.

Canada's racing legend Paul Tracy and American racing diva Danica Patrick were slated to start side-by-side on the eighth row in the race, but Tony Kanaan has elected to drop from 12th to the back of the 27-car field in order to change engines for the race.

No difference, really.

Danica will start 14th and Tracy 15th.

"Get the boxing gloves out," said pole winner Ryan Briscoe.

"There could be fireworks," said third row starter and former Edmonton ChampCar series race winner Justin Wilson.

In the race where the best side bet since the week began is which driver will finish higher, Patrick or Tracy, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit girl or The Thrill From West Hill, it's going to be interesting back there.

The two have been the most publicized drivers at this event with Patrick coming off her cat fight last week with Milka Duno and with Tracy saying it's tough for "a girl" to come here and handle what he terms "the most physically demanding track in North America."

BRISCOE ON THE POLE

Sure, Briscoe is on the pole after winning the Firestone Fast Six final of the new qualifying format of the freshly merged IndyCar Series.

Sure today's race should be in the first few rows where Team Penske teammates Briscoe and Helio Castroneves - who shared the front row last week in Mid-Ohio and finished 1-2 in the race. Between them, they have now won the last four poles in the series. Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon will start behind them with Will Power and Justin Wilson on the third row. That's three from ChampCar and three from IRL which 2006 Edmonton winner Wilson saying "is about right."

While there's all sorts of top talent lined up behind them - Bruno Junqueira, Graham Rahal, Dan Wheldon, Mario Moraes, Enrique Bernoldi, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay - for the only race of the IndyCar Series in Canada this year, it's back where Patrick and Tracy are that the real action might be.

"We had such a good weekend so far, this was our first real hiccup," said Tracy. "We carried too much fuel and with too much weight in the car, I couldn't get the time down.

"We left it pretty late in the session to go and we had the speed in the car. We went out at the end and put in a great lap that would have seen us advance to that top 12, but the checkered flag had already come out.

"But it's going to be a really tough and long race out there and people are going to make mistakes. We'll just be looking for every opportunity," he added.

"Surprisingly, I really thought I had a chance to get into the fastest six of my group," said Patrick of the first round of qualifying. "I'm definitely feeling better about the track as a whole than I was yesterday."

FIRST-ROUND CASUALTY

It was perfectly predictable that one of the big name drivers was going to be a first-round casualty with the way the two qualifying groups came out of that hat in the random draw.

Andretti and Patrick made the early exit from the first group. Tracy, who didn't have a lap in his car for the one-off appearance here until Thursday practice, was in the weaker second group but couldn't advance either.

The race will feature 27 cars if you count Toronto's Marty 'The Sloth' Roth with the No. 25 car in the 25th spot where he is a season ticket holder.

But, hey, he's starting in front of Kanaan.


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