By: Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Fast Friday best time set by Castroneves
- 2010 Pole speed was slower
- Tagliani continues to impress
Fast Friday finds Helio atop the 500 field
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves paced Fast Friday with a best lap speed of 228.611 mph over the 2.5 mile diamond-ground, asphalt oval surface at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The tour put the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner in prime position to repeat his performance of 2010. Last year's pole-winning speed was 227.970 mph topped off by a best lap of 228.213 mph by Castroneves.
“Today was Fast Friday, everyone laid back the wings and we did a lot of laps to insure we are happy with the car,” said Castroneves whose bright yellow and red-trimmed Shell Oil V-Power racer looked formidable both on track and at rest. “Records are made to be broken,” continued Castroneves in reference to his opportunity to become the first man to claim pole position for the famous 500-mile race for a third consecutive year on Saturday. “I will focus on what needs to be done to put the car into the number one spot.”
Records are made to be broken.
Of his 228 mph mark, fastest of the month of May so far, Castroneves remarked, “It definitely was a lap with a tow, but we feel confident. It’s going to be one of the tightest fields in history. This is Indy, 41 cars and only 33 spots. Alex and the Ganassi Racing drivers (Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are going to be tough competitors for the Pole. The weather is difficult to predict, but 225 is going to be the bottom. We haven’t formulated a plan on “Fast Nine” strategy yet. Tim Cindric will sort that out with us tonight.”
Sam Schmidt’s Alex Tagliani continued to show himself as a strong contender for the pole position on Saturday and the May 29th Indianapolis 500 with the day’s second-best mark, a lap of 228.327 mph turned in the sixth of only 26 circuits of the field today.
“We have a good car and the team is continuing to rise,” he said. “It’s been nice to fine-tune rather than trying to re-invent the wheel this week. We have some things left without pushing the limits aerodynamically, but there are a lot of cars with the same potential here. We’ll have a strong car but so will several others.”
Tagliani posted a fastest lap of 225.878 mph to set the pace for a chilly, breezy, full day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday.
Third fastest on Friday was Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (228.181 mph) followed by Castroneves’ teammate Briscoe (228.029 mph). Bertrand Baguette whizzed along to a lap of 228.028 mph in an attempt to catch Briscoe that missed by a cat’s whisker.
Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Townsend Bell, Oriol Servia and Dan Wheldon rounded out the top ten on Friday.
Pole Day activities at Indianapolis Motor Speedway get underway at 11AM EDT on Saturday 21st May, and will determine the top 24 spots in the traditional 33-car field as each entrant will attempt a four-lap attempt to qualify up to a maximum of three attempts. Bumping begins when the 24 spots are filled.
The times of the top nine drivers from the fastest 24 will then have to requalify a four-lap stint that will actually determine the pole and first 3 rows of the 11-row starting field. No driver is guaranteed to start worse than ninth, even if he crashes and does not complete a single lap in the Fast 9 session, which commences at 4:30 PM EDT.
Simona de Silvestro, who was involved in a crash on Thursday in Turns 3 and 4, was treated for second-degree burns on her right hand and superficial burns on her left hand after the No. 78 HVM Racing machine got into the catch-fence, flipped completely inverted onto the racetrack, slid down the banking and caught fire. De Silvestro crawled from beneath the wreckage, still partially in flames, and walked to a waiting ambulance.
“I can move my hands,” she said of the baseball mitt sized white bandage covering her non dominant right hand. “But the bandage is pretty tight and it does hurt a lot. Luckily it’s an oval course at Indy so it’s not as physically demanding as a road course would be.” Her driving status will be re-evaluated Saturday.