Hello from high above the southern tip of Seneca Lake -- Larry Ott and I are at Watkins Glen International this weekend for the Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen.
Qualifying is today with the race Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC. I'll have a live blog here Sunday afternoon as I take notes on the race.
1:15 p.m. Qualifying has begun. IndyCar qualifying is a three-round process. The first step has two groups of cars going out -- with only the fastest six advancing to Round Two. You can keep track of the action at indycar.com.
The only thing of note from this morning's practice session was E.J. Viso's spinning crash along Turns One and Two; he was fine. He took his No. 8 KV Racing Technology car wide out of Turn One, made contact with the barrier on the right side of the track, then slid across to the left side, making contact again with the barrier and sustaining heavy damage.
Not advancing are, notably, Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick -- she had the second-worst lap of the session and will start well in the back of the pack. Also not making it: Simona deSilvestro, Vitor Meira, Alex Tagliani and Bertrand Baguette.
1:40 p.m. Ryan Hunter-Reay goes for a spin in the boot, I believe, to bring out the caution flag with about nine minutes left in the 15-minute second session.
2:03 p.m. I got out of the media center for a bit to take a walk outside by the track -- it's a spectacularly sunny day here. Snapped a few photos (there's one above) and took a few videos (there's one below).
Round Two has begun, with Will Power, Takuma Sato, Dario Franchitti, Raphael Matos, Scott Dixon and Paul Tracy having advanced from the second group in Round One.
The lineup of spots 13 through 25 in the starting grid are all set with cars that did not advance from Round One; they are based on lap times from the first round of qualifying: Kanaan (13th), Hideki Mutoh, deSilvestro, Hunter-Reay, Meira, Mario Romancini, Tagliani, Dan Wheldon, Patrick, Alex Lloyd, Baguette, Milka Duno and E.J. Viso (25th).
2:11 p.m. We have our Fast Six who will race for the pole in Round Three: Power, Castroneves, Franchitti, Briscoe, Wilson and Sato -- Sato is the surprise guy there, he's a rookie who is 22nd in the points standings.
In spots seven through 12: Dixon (a surprise he's not in the final six -- second in points and a three-time winner here), Andretti, Moraes, Carroll, Matos, Tracy.
2:25 p.m. The 10-minute Fast Six qualifying session has begun.
2:35 p.m. The qualifying session ends with Will Power on top, followed by Castroneves, Briscoe, Franchitti, Sato and Wilson.
Castroneves' session ended in ignominious fashion as he was apparently unable to turn in the bottom of the boot (the section of the track not used by NASCAR) and drove straight through Turn Seven and into the gravel that slows cars down. He doesn't appear to have been injured.
Power leads a Team Penske 1-2-3 sweep of the podium positions. Penske has won eight straight pole positions -- this is the ninth race of the IndyCar season. Power's lap took 1 minute, 29.3164 seconds and went an average of 135.832 mph.
3:20 p.m. The postrace interviews have concluded and I'm going into story-writing mode soon. Sato was very pleased with his fifth-place starting spot, the best of his career.
I'm starting to research him -- he's been a low-level Formula One driver prior to coming to IndyCar this season as a "rookie." The Penske guys were pleased with their sweep of qualifying and they were asked about Penske's drought here at Watkins Glen, where the team has never won. With Wilson starting fifth, Franchitti fourth and Dixon seventh, there's a nice mix up front. Sounds like that's what I'll be writing my story about.
One interesting thing during the press conferences was when Will Power was talking glowingly about the Glen -- he said "I hope we come back here." I thought it was pretty notable that there would even be a possibility that this historic track might be without an open-wheel race in the future, but I suppose with the new leadership of the IndyCar Series (including new CEO Randy Bernard) and changes on the way (Baltimore and New Hampshire are getting races in 2011), anything's possible.
5 p.m. I just read Larry Ott's column for tomorrow -- you should definitely check it out in the Sunday paper (or on here). He went for a ride in a two-seat Indy Car and wrote about it. Great stuff.
I'll be back here tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. for a live chat during the race.