From Amy Konrath
INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 22, 2010 – Helio Castroneves saved his best for last during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves, the first of nine drivers to run during the final 90 minutes of qualifying, recorded a four-lap average speed of 227.970 mph to win the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone for the Indianapolis 500.
Sitting second to FAZZT Race Team’s Alex Tagliani with 90 minutes left in the first segment of Pole Day qualifying, Castroneves and Team Penske withdrew the qualified time of the No. 3 Team Penske car for a shot at the top spot. With a four-lap average of 226.774 mph, he took the top position.
The designation gave Castroneves the first choice in the required qualifying run in Segment 2 of the new format. This time, he left spectators and the eight other challengers shaking their heads with a four-lap average of 227.970 mph — more than 3 mph faster than his pole-winning speed last year. The run included a lap of 228.213 mph — the fastest of the month.
But as the format was designed, drama ensued as 18 total attempts were made to steal Castroneves’ thunder and the $175,000 payday to the pole winner. He wore a nervous smile as Team Penske teammate Will Power posted a four-lap average of 227.578 mph and others came close.
Power and Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti (226.990), the 2007 race winner, also will start on the front row. Ryan Briscoe (226.554), Tagliani (226.390) and Scott Dixon (226.233), the 2008 winner, will share Row 2. Graham Rahal (225.519), Ed Carpenter (224.507) and Hideki Mutoh (223.487) will be on the third row.
In all, 24 drivers qualified for the May 30 race. The remaining nine spots in the field will be filled during Bump Day on May 23.
DAY 8 NOTES AND QUOTES: (Full Quote Sheet available at www.indycar.com/media)
Quick quotes from front-row starters Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Dario Franchitti after Fast Nine qualifying:
HELIO CASTRONEVES: “Sitting in that car for an hour in half was not easy at all, especially with everyone getting closer and closer. I was like, ‘Are we going or not?’ because I can’t handle that much pressure. It’s great to have a 1-2 start for Team Penske. It’s a shame that Ryan (Briscoe) didn’t have his chance on the last one. It’s great to be part of this team. We work so well together. I’m on the pole, but all three of us benefit from it. I’m very proud of my team; they did a great job today.”
WILL POWER: “It’s great to see the Verizon car on the front row and the Penske cars 1-2. It’s pretty tough to beat Helio (Castroneves) at Indianapolis. He’s a quick guy. I’m happy with our starting position, and it’s good for the points. When I saw Helio’s time, I thought that’s crazy fast. But when I put the downforce level he had on a bit later, I was up there in the high 27s. I should have done that when it was warmer and the air was thinner, but that comes down to experience, and he has great experience here.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI: “It’s my fourth time starting third here and my third in a row. If you had told me that yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed you. It was a great job by Team Target because we weren’t quick yesterday. All week we’ve been OK with good balanced cars, but not fast cars. We made big improvements and big strides, and we were in there fighting for it. We’ve got good race cars and I gave it everything I had today. I’m pretty happy.”
PGA Tour legend Fuzzy Zoeller watched qualifying from the Panther Racing pits today. His Fuzzy’s Super Premium Vodka is a sponsor of the No. 20 Panther/Vision/Fuzzy’s Vodka driven by Ed Carpenter.
FUZZY ZOELLER: (On what it’s like to feel pressure in golf compared to driving an Indy car): “Trust me, missing a putt for three or four hundred thousand (dollars) is nothing. Going 225 mph with your butt about to slip out from under you; that’s something. I’m not sure how many Depends I would have to go through, whew. But God bless them. The respect I have for these guys, what they do is unbelievable. Hell, anybody can make a 3-footer, right?
INDIANAPOLIS 500 POLE DAY QUALIFYING NOTES:
•This is Helio Castroneves’ fourth career Indianapolis 500 pole, tying him with Rex Mays and A.J. Foyt for second on the all-time Indianapolis 500 list. Rick Mears leads with six poles. Castroneves’ poles have come in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
•The last time a driver won two consecutive Indianapolis 500 poles was 1995-96, by Scott Brayton.
•This is the 16th time Penske Racing/Team Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 Pole. The years: 1977-79, 1981-82, 1986, 1988-91, 1994, 2003, 2006-07, 2009-10.
•Helio Castroneves’ 2010 Indianapolis 500 pole marks the seventh time the defending Indianapolis 500 winner earned the pole. The other years this occurred: 1927, Frank Lockhart; 1965, A.J. Foyt; 1984, Tom Sneva; 1989, Rick Mears; 1990, Emerson Fittipaldi; 2003, Castroneves.
•Helio Castroneves joins Rick Mears as the only drivers to earn the pole as both the defending pole and race winner. Castroneves won from the pole in 2009. Mears won from the pole in 1988 and again won the pole in 1989.
•Penske Racing team owner Roger Penske has had at least one car start on the front row in 27 of his 37 years competing in the Indianapolis 500 as a car owner. All told, 39 Penske-entered cars have started on the front row.
•Penske Racing/Team Penske cars have won seven time from the Indianapolis 500 pole: 1979 (Rick Mears), 1981 (Bobby Unser), 1988 (Mears), 1991 (Mears), 1994 (Al Unser Jr.), 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr.), 2009 (Helio Castroneves).
•This will be Helio Castroneves’ eight consecutive start in the top eight. He started his streak with a pole in 2003.
•Will Power qualified a career-best second. His previous best was ninth in 2009.
•Dario Franchitti qualified third for the fourth time in his seven Indianapolis 500 starts. This is the third consecutive year he will start third.
•Helio Castroneves earned a $175,000 bonus for winning the Peak Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone ($100,000 PEAK Performance Pole Award, $75,000 Indianapolis Motor Speedway bonus). Will Power earned a $75,000 bonus for qualifying second, and Dario Franchitti earned a $50,000 bonus for qualifying third.
•Ryan Briscoe qualified fourth. This will be his fourth consecutive start in the top seven.
•Alex Tagliani will start fifth in 2010 after starting 33rd and last in 2009.
•Scott Dixon qualified sixth, his fifth consecutive Indianapolis 500 start in the top six.
•Graham Rahal will start seventh, his second consecutive Indianapolis 500 start in the top seven.
•Ed Carpenter qualified a career-best eighth. His previous best at Indianapolis was 10th in 2008.
•Hideki Mutoh tied his career-best start of ninth, also set in 2008.
•Ana Beatriz is the top qualifier among Chase Rookie of the Year candidates, qualifying 21st. Other rookies to qualify today: Simona De Silvestro, 22nd; Bertrand Baguette, 24th.
•Ana Beatriz’s qualifying speed of 224.243 was the second-fastest by a rookie woman driver in Indianapolis 500 history. Only Danica Patrick was faster, at 227.004 in 2005.
•Townsend Bell qualified 10th at 225.097 mph, his career best and fastest at Indianapolis.
•Simona De Silvestro became the first Swiss driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 since Clay Regazzoni in 1977.
•Danica Patrick qualified 23rd, her Indianapolis career low. Her previous lowest start was 10th, in 2006 and 2009.
1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti crowned Brooke Dorsett of Bedford, Ind., as the 2010 500 Festival Queen this morning at the annual Breakfast at the Brickyard, presented by ProLiance Energy held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dorsett graduated earlier this month from the Indiana University School of Dentistry, where she majored in dental hygiene and public health. Dorsett, 22, is one of 33 young ladies selected for the 2010 500 Festival Princess Program, serving as ambassadors for the 500 Festival and Indianapolis 500. She is a 2006 graduate of Bedford North Lawrence High School and the daughter of Gary and Karen Dorsett.
As 500 Festival Queen, Dorsett received a $2,500 educational scholarship from the 500 Festival and WTHR Channel 13. In addition, Dorsett will wear a jeweled crown provided by G. Thrapp Jewelers at 500 Festival events and the Indianapolis 500. She will participate in a variety of appearances throughout the week and participate in the Indianapolis 500 pre-race and Victory Circle celebrations. She will continue to represent the 500 Festival at various functions throughout the year.
De Ferran Dragon Racing President and co-owner Gil de Ferran commented on the pole won today by his former Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. De Ferran won the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
GIL DE FERRAN: “I’m not surprised he’s on the pole. I don’t know how he found that time. From (2)26 to (2)28 is truly astounding. Helio is extremely good. He’s a great driver who has a magical touch here. Plus Team Penske is one of the best racing teams in the world. When you marry the two, it’s not a surprise at all. He’s in a great position to fight for his fourth win.”
A total of 45 cars are currently at the Speedway, and 45 have passed technical inspection. Thirty-seven drivers have been on the track to date. There were seven cautions for a total of one hour, 36 minutes.
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):
Public Gates Open
Indianapolis 500 Practice
Indianapolis 500 Qualifications (positions 25-33)
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues May 30 with the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway The race will air live on VERSUS.