Helio Castroneves, polesitter for the 91st Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]
Drama, Excitement, Disappointment And Celebration
by Steve Zautke
May 12, Indianapolis - Helio Castroneves and Team Penske took the pole position from Dario Franchitti and Andretti-Green Racing late on Pole Day at Indianapolis. However, Castroneves had to survive Tony Kanaan trying to take the pole position back for AGR. However, Castroneves and Team Penske prevailed, taking home $100,000 in winning the AAMCO Transmission Pole Award for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.
Dario Franchitti who was the 11th driver to take a time early on Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway qualified with a four-lap average of 225.191 mph good enough for pole until 5:52pm when Helio Castroneves out qualified the speedy Scotsman. Castroneves qualified with a four-lap average of 225.817 mph. However, it wasn’t over just yet. The next qualifier was Tony Kanaan who was making his second attempt. Kanaan out sped Castroneves on laps one, two and three. However, exiting turn three on his last lap, “I got loose coming out of three” Kanaan noted, “I got up to speed too fast.” That slip in turn three is all Castroneves needed to keep the pole. Castroneves’ crew waited on pit lane expecting the worse. When word came over the PA that Kanaan just missed, they cheered loudly and pumped their fists as they congratulated each other along with Castoneves as the disappointment in the AGR pits 30 feet away was evident. "Today was a great team effort and a great way to start. But we're going to have to keep working. Like Rick Mears always says, you have two races here -- the pole run and the race," Castroneves noted, winning his second pole for the “500.” Franchitti commented, “Obviously, a long wait here. I hated it. I’m glad the fans enjoyed it. They were getting into it. When one guy would get close, they would all cheer. When Helio would be out there, they would cheer. They had a great time, I think. It kept everybody on edge of their seats all day. The guys going for the pole, also the bumping process. I really think it was a success. But what a horrible stressful day, though.”
The front row for the Indianapolis 500 will consist of Helio Castroneves #3 Team Penske Dallara-Honda. This is Team Penske’s record fourteenth pole for the Indy 500, incidentally it goes with their fourteen “500” wins. Andretti-Green drivers Tony Kanaan will line up second in the #11 7-Eleven AGR Dallara-Honda and Dario Franchitti third in the #26 Canadian Club AGR Dallara-Honda.
Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon of Target-Chip Ganassi Racing were considered by many to be the two of the favorites for the pole ended up in the second row sandwiching Team Penske driver Sam Hornish, Jr. Wheldon conceded the pole after making a second attempt, “I’d love to get pole here one day. I’m going to have to come back to do that. But the important thing is the race, and looking forward to that.”
Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Tomas Scheckter and Michael Andretti all were successful in being first day qualifiers. Others who came close were Jeff Simmons, Ed Carpenter and Darren Manning.
Second day qualifying continues tomorrow at Noon . Stay tune to racingnation.com for continuing coverage.