Castroneves on top for Indy 500's Fast Friday

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Castroneves on top for Indy 500's Fast Friday

Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was hampered by intermittent rain with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves holding onto the fastest speed of the day at the 6 PM EDT close. Castroneves mark (226.558 mph) was only slightly faster than the ...

Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was hampered by intermittent rain with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves holding onto the fastest speed of the day at the 6 PM EDT close. Castroneves mark (226.558 mph) was only slightly faster than the second-fastest practice lap recorded by his Penske teammate Will Power (226.429 mph).

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

Alex Tagliani of FAZZT Racing broke into the 226 range at 226.153 mph for the third-fastest of the day, while Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon rolled to a 225.828 mph circuit at the big oval for fourth. KV Racing Technology's Mario Moraes picked up fifth on a lap of 225.806 mph with Andretti Autosports' Tony Kanaan in tow for sixth-quick at 225.617 mph. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe was classified seventh at 225.300 mph, chased by Marco Andretti with a fastest lap of 225.296 mph for eighth.

Dixon's teammate Dario Franchitti was ninth (225.281 mph) and Townsend Bell ran to tenth in the session with a best of 225.177 mph. All of the top-10 except for Bell are season-long competitiors in the IndyCar Series. Like Monaco is the crown jewel for Formula One, the Indianapolis 500 is the same for the IndyCar, except that for the Brickyard event, there are drivers with one-off rides, including rookies.

Franchitti summed up the strategy for most of the competitors on Friday saying, "We're going into qualifying simulation. We're going to have to do it a good number of times today and again tomorrow...upwards of three, four times probably. We're going to earn our money here, for sure."

The field for the May 30 race continued to demonstrate remarkable parity with less than one second covering the entirety of the times posted by all 36 cars that made laps on Friday. Ana Beatriz's speed of 221.229 trailed the field, but still left everyone within only slightly over five miles per hour difference from top to bottom of the timing and scoring pylon.

Former Formula 1 driver Takumo Sato (Lotus-KV Racing Technology) offered up an explanation of the difficulty involved in separating from the others. "Many people think Indianapolis is a simple track, just four 90-degree left hand turns. But at speeds up to 230 mph, each turn is unique with many subtle differences that make them completely different." Sato's best effort (224.429 mph) on Friday left him near the middle of the pack, at twenty-second of thirty-six cars.

Full attention now shifts to the novel new qualifying procedure in effect for the 2010 Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Traditional four-lap qualifying commences at 11 AM EDT on Saturday for 24 positions in the field, and continues for five hours. After a thirty minute break, to establish a new qualifying order, there follows at 4:30 PM EDT a ninety-minute "Pole Shootout" for the best seat in the house come race day.

Aside from the bragging rights assigned to the Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter, there are several winning practical considerations in play. Chief among them is the $175,000 award that goes to the fastest driver to emerge from the nine-car shootout that occupies the final ninety minutes of qualifying on Saturday. There are also fifteen IndyCar Series points on the table for whomever claims the inside position on the front row, as well as the assurance of a clear track ahead when the green flag waves to signify the start for the 33-car field.

Temperatures hovered in the low to mid-seventies for the duration of Friday's practice session, day seven in the run-up to the Memorial Day race. Clouds and light showers moved over and past the Speedway continually Friday, though a predicted all-day door-closer never materialized.

Qualifying positions for Pole Day were selected after the close of on-track activities. John Andretti drew the opening shot at making a qualifying attempt of four 2.5 mile laps around the track. Andretti was followed in the order by A.J. Foyt IV, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani.

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Series INDYCAR