If there was any doubt who the fastest team, car and driver was heading into yesterday’s pole positions shootout, Helio Castroneves made it perfectly clear. The first car to qualify in the late afternoon session, Castroneves turned four laps for Team Penske at a blistering average speed of 227.970, to claim the pole position for the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500. The pole is Castroneves’ fourth, gaining him entry into a a very exclusive club. Only Rick Mears, Rex May, and A.J. Foyt have four or more Indy pole positions in their racing career.
Castroneves’ run left the other “fast nine” drivers scrambling to find more speed. Alex Tagliani, driving for startup team FAZZT Racing, dominated the morning session but was unable to find a competitive setup in the pole shootout. Even Dario Franchitti, driving for Target Chip Ganassi, couldn’t match the pace of the fastest two Penske cars. Franchitti couldn’t break the 227 mile per hour mark set by Castroneves and his Penske teammate Will Power, so Franchitti will start on the outside of the front row alongside Power.
The morning’s qualifying session led to disappointment for some big name drivers. Tony Kanaan crashed in qualifying and was unable to get back on the track for a new attempt. The Andretti Autosport driver will try for a spot today, but can qualify no higher than 25th. Paul Tracy, the CART Champ who once declared he’d never drive an IRL “crapwagon”, suffered a gearbox failure and was unable to make a qualifying attempt. Takuma Sato, the former F1 pilot, also put his KV Racing car into the wall during qualifying and will attempt to make the field in today’s session. Veteran Danica Patrick claimed her car was the “worst she’d even driven”, and qualified in the 23rd spot. Ironically, the Andretti Autosport driver starts behind rookie drivers Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz, making her the third fastest woman in the field.
Today’s “bump day” coverage will begin at noon on Versus. Nine spots remain, with thirteen cars and drivers trying for a spot in the 94th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic.