News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Auto Racing

May 23, 2010

Castroneves takes shootout for fourth pole

TERRE HAUTE — Four was a nice number for Helio Castroneves on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Pole Day qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

The Team Penske driver, who turned 35 this month, is the pole sitter for the fourth time for the race and will try to become the fourth four-time winner of the race May 30.

Castroneves accomplished his feat in a full day of qualifying, requalifying and bumping, with 24 slots filled for the race. The final nine spots will be filled today.

“I think I [deserve] a raise. It was hard, mentally, physically. You have to do what you have to do,” he said.

Castroneves got his fourth pole the hard way, making four qualifying attempts under the new format and holding off two teammates in a 90-minute shootout featuring the nine fastest drivers from the first five hours of qualifying.

His average in the shootout was his fastest of the day: a four-lap average of 227.970 miles per hour. That’s the best pole mark since 2006, when Sam Hornish Jr. earned the No. 1  slot with a 228.985 mark.

Castroneves ranked second to Alex Tagliano after his first run of 226.388 mph but he moved to first on the speed charts with his second run of 226.744 mph and stayed there until the track closed at 6 p.m.

The times of all drivers in the shootout were erased for the extra round of qualifying, and the three-time winner from Brazil recorded his top time of the day in the first attempt of the shootout. He tried to improve on it in a late run but failed to do it.

“I didn’t know I would not lose my time. I was afraid my time would not stand,” Castroneves said of his final attempt. “The second attempt was really crucial for us. We made some adjustments from the first time.”

Others in the extra session also went out more than once and some improved their position. In the end, Penske teammate Will Power ranked second with his 227.578 mark and will start next to Castroneves in the front row on race day as he seeks his first win in the race in his third start.

Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti, who won the race in 2007, kept Penske drivers from filling the front row, earning the third slot with his 226.990 average.

Another Penske driver, Ryan Briscoe, will be in the second row, starting fourth, along with Tagliani, making his second start, and Ganassi driver Scott Dixon, who won in 2008.

Filling out the third row are Graham Rahal, Ed Carpenter and Hideki Mutoh.

To be in the top nine was gratifying for Carpenter and Rahal. Neither driver has a full-time ride for the IndyCar Series schedule and Carpenter will make his first start of the season in the race.

His ride is a joint effort of Vision and Panther race teams and pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller. “If I run just one race, this is the one I want to run. I have my best chance to win,” said the Marshall, Ill., native who finished eighth last year and fifth in 2008.

Rahal ran some races for Sarah Fisher Racing this year and will be driving the Rahal Letterman Racing Special in an effort put together by his father, former winner Bobby Rahal, and David Letterman.

“The car was awesome for the short time we have had to get ready. We knew the potential was there,” he said.

Drivers who qualified, were bumped and made it back in the field were Ana Beatriz and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Others who were bumped and will have to try and qualify again today are Paul Tracy, A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira, Jay Howard, Mario Romancini and Sebastian Saavedra.

One of the usual race contenders who did not qualify Saturday was Tony Kanaan, who made contact with the wall at the start of his qualifying run.

One driver was injured during practice runs that began in cloudy, cool conditions and two other accidents came during qualifying attempts.

Takuma Sato, a rookie driving the No. 5 car, made contact with the wall in the second turn with heavy damage to the front of the car. He was taken to Methodist Hospital for tests and evaluation due to tenderness in his back.

Kanaan and Mario Moraes also both made contact with the wall in the second turn without serious injury.

Moraes’ accident came after he had completed three of the four qualifying laps, all 224 mph or better, while Kanaan’s mishap came on his first lap.

Qualifying begins at noon today and bumping again will begin when the 33 spots are filled. The track then will be closed until Friday (Carb Day), when the drivers will have their last chance to practice before the race.

 

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