Indy 500: Series Pole Day report

CASTRONEVES WINS THIRD POLE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS (May 9, 2009) -- Helio Castroneves will start his ninth Indianapolis 500 from a familiar spot. The Brazilian, who celebrates his 34th birthday on May 10, scored his third...

CASTRONEVES WINS THIRD POLE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500

INDIANAPOLIS (May 9, 2009) -- Helio Castroneves will start his ninth Indianapolis 500 from a familiar spot.

The Brazilian, who celebrates his 34th birthday on May 10, scored his third Indianapolis 500 pole position and Roger Penske's record 15th pole position with a four-lap average speed of 224.864 mph (2 minutes, 40.0967 seconds cumulative time) on the 2.5-mile oval. It was the Brazilian's 27th career IndyCar Series pole and his first of the season.

Teammate Ryan Briscoe made a late attempt to unseat Castroneves in the six-hour session, withdrawing his second-best qualifying time, but came up short (224.083). He'll be in the middle of Row 1, with 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti (224.010) on the outside in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

The first 11 spots of the 33-car field were set on Pole Day. Positions 12-22 will be set May 10.

Graham Rahal, making his second start, qualified fourth in the No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Reigning Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, the '08 pole sitter, and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan also will be on Row 2. Kanaan, whose initial attempt was disqualified because of a post-qualifying technical inspection infraction, bumped his way into the field with an hour left. He's never started lower than sixth in his eight 500 Mile Races.

Mario Moraes (223.331), driving the No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Votorantim car, qualified sixth, with Marco Andretti (223.114) and Will Power (223.078) also on Row 3.

Danica Patrick (222.882) will start 10th and Alex Lloyd 11th. Lloyd bumped Hideki Mutoh from the field with an attempt that ended one minute before the end of the day. Six different teams are represented in the 11 positions.

***

Art and Kathy Koch, of Pittsburgh, are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary at the track today. Art, a retired Pittsburgh Press/Post Gazette newspaper reporter, and his wife haven't missed an Indianapolis 500 in their married life.

ART KOCH: "We first came here in 1960. I was coming here on behalf of my newspaper to do some stringing for them. I think I had $37 in my pocket and a used car with recapped tires, but I was going to Indianapolis. We made it, and we've been here every year since for 50 years. This is our 50th race and also May 9th is our 50th wedding anniversary. Our daughters asked what we were going to do on our anniversary, and I said, 'Your mother and I will be in the pits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as usual.'"

***

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway features 17 grandstands with a footprint of 22 acres. If the seat boards were laid end-to-end, they would stretch 99.5 miles.

***

Former Forumla One driver Takuma Sato is visiting the Speedway on Pole Day. Sato, a two-time participant in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, was eager to take in the atmosphere of the Indianapolis 500 and displayed an interest in racing in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in the future.

TAKUMA SATO: "Obviously, I know the track, but this is my first trip during the IndyCar Series, and I'm very impressed. This place, obviously, is very important. I'm looking forward to any possibility of a chance in my future plans (to race in the Indianapolis 500), you know, just to have a look and feel it, the Indy 500."

(How different does it feel being here now compared to being here for Formula One?): "I only know the race days in F1, so the Indy 500 on Race Day will be massively different from Pole Day today. But obviously I can get the feel that this is one of the biggest events in motorsports in the world. I'm so excited for it."

***

One year, a charity slow-pitch softball game was scheduled at old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis between a group of celebrities against a group of drivers.

It was well attended and pretty impressive -- Regis Philbin pitched for the celebrities.

After a few innings, as the teams changed sides, though, it wasn't Philbin who walked to the mound, but a young blonde girl. Three-time "500" winner Johnny Rutherford stepped to the plate, expecting the normal, routine, slow, arching pitch.

But the young blonde girl went into a full windup windmill and cranked up a heater right under Rutherford's chin.

As J.R. bailed, the crowd roared.

The (short-lived because of friendly "protest") "ringer" was Indianapolis 500 veteran Robby Gordon's sister Beccy, who was the youngest member of the USA National Softball Team at 13 and introduced softball into the Olympics in 1992 at Barcelona, Spain.

Beccy and 2008 Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay announced their engagement in April at Long Beach, Calif.

JOHNNY RUTHERFORD: "To see her now, I don't think she's the same kind of girl, but she could sure throw that ball. I didn't know what to think. Robby was pretty proud of her. I think I may have been the only one to get a hit off of her. But she came out and showed us just what she had."

BECCY GORDON: "I was just sitting in the stands. I think I was 12 or 13, and I was on the U.S. National team at the time. All of a sudden, Robby came and got me. I had no idea. My shoes were too big, my shirt was too big. I got to the mound, and Johnny was up there. I looked at my brother, and he said, 'Go for it.' Poor Johnny about had a heart attack but he was crowding the plate. Now, every time he sees me, he makes jokes. I think I still have the cleats they gave me."

***

Pancho Carter won the pole for the 1985 Indianapolis 500 and won the inaugural Norton-Michigan 500 in a stellar racing career. After his career as a driver, "spotters" became a part of the racing community, and Pancho wound up with a second career.

With Panther Racing, he has served in that capacity for Sam Hornish Jr., Vitor Meira and now Dan Wheldon, two winners and a driver who has finished second twice in the Indianapolis 500. He talked about the spotter job and the differences between each of the three drivers and what they expect from a spotter.

PANCHO CARTER: "Hornish was pretty green when we got him, so he did it pretty much my way. I was a driver and from a spotter aspect, I tried to communicate anything I would want to know in the car, not as I would drive it. We tested at Phoenix once and let him run a full fuel load like he wanted. He did it, and then we told him we wanted him to run a certain lap speed. By doing it our way, we were a lap and a half ahead with fuel load and tire wear and all. He's a hell of an IndyCar driver, and he's finally gotten those stock cars figured out."

(About Meira): "The first time he ever drove an IndyCar, I was there. We went down to Texas with Panther's program with USAC testing some of their drivers and we got a call saying this guy from Brazil coming. Vitor was the guy. He was the first one of all the drivers there to leave the pits without killing the car."

(About Wheldon): "The first time we tested with Wheldon, the earpiece came out, and we could hear him but he couldn't hear us. I said to him, 'Doesn't it seem strange that you weren't hearing anything?' He's still working. I like him. Wheldon's a little bit like Hornish in that he doesn't like the car slowed down and too draggy. Vitor wasn't so concerned about a free car but one that was fast through the corners."

(About spotting): "I enjoy doing it. I enjoy being able to do something in racing as long as I can pay my property taxes and health insurance."

***

Indianapolis 500 veteran Jaques Lazier was working Gasoline Alley today, looking for a ride in the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

JAQUES LAZIER: (On the potential of landing a second-week deal): "There's obviously a couple of available seats. Hopefully we can get something put together. We still have some time. I know that I'm confident enough that if we do get it put together, I'll have plenty of time to get in a car on Thursday and Friday and get it in the show next Saturday."

***

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard served as the honorary starter for PEAK Performance Pole Qualifying today.

GREG BALLARD: "It was a very big thrill. When you're a little kid, you just dream about coming to qualifications and the race. You just love being out here. Waving the green flag today was such a big thrill. It's so exciting to be so close to the track at the start of the first qualifying lap. I admire these drivers for being able to drive at these high speeds. The Speedway has meant a lot to the city over 100 years. I love the fact that we are going to have essentially a three-year celebration of the Centennial. I've watched this race in Germany, Japan and Panama. This is a big event around the world. It's so thrilling that it's right here in the city of Indianapolis. It carries such world-wide importance. It's amazing."

***

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Helio Castroneves won the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone and its $100,000 prize.

* Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti qualified on the front row and earned $25,000 and $10,000 from PEAK, respectively.

* This is the third Indianapolis 500 pole for Castroneves. He also won the pole in 2003 and 2007 when he went on to finish second and third, respectively. Castroneves' two wins in the Indianapolis 500 came from the 11th and 13th starting positions in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

* Castroneves is the eighth driver to win at least three poles at the Indianapolis 500. Rick Mears won six while Rex Mays and A.J. Foyt each won four. Johnny Rutherford, Mario Andretti, Tom Sneva and Arie Luyendyk each won three poles.

* This is the 15th pole for Roger Penske at the Indianapolis 500, more than any other owner. No other car owner has won more than four poles. Penske's first pole win at Indianapolis was with Tom Sneva in 1977.

* This is the 27th career pole for Castroneves. He is the IndyCar Series' all-time leader.

* Castroneves has qualified in the top 10 for seven consecutive Indianapolis 500s.

* Castroneves leads all IndyCar Series drivers with 79 career top-five starts. He also leads all drivers with 98 career top-10 starts.

* This is the 43rd IndyCar Series pole for Team Penske.

* Briscoe qualified second and will start on the front row at the Indianapolis 500 for the second consecutive year. He started third last year.

* Briscoe will start in the top 10 for the third consecutive year. He qualified seventh in 2007.

* This is Briscoe's best starting position of the season. His previous best was fourth at St. Petersburg.

* Briscoe has qualified in the top 10 in 12 consecutive IndyCar Series races dating back to Watkins Glen 2008.

* Franchitti qualified third and will start on the front row for the third time at the Indianapolis 500. He also started third in 2004 (finished 14th) and in 2007 (finished first).

* Graham Rahal qualified fourth. He qualified 13th as a rookie last year.

* Rahal's father, Bobby, won from the fourth starting position in 1986.

* Scott Dixon qualified fifth, the fourth consecutive year he has qualified in the top five for the Indianapolis 500 and the sixth time in eight starts.

* Briscoe, Dixon and Rahal are the only drivers to qualify in the top 10 in all four IndyCar Series races this season.

* Tony Kanaan qualified sixth. He has started in the top six in all eight Indianapolis 500s in which he has raced.

* Kanaan has qualified in the top 10 in 19 consecutive IndyCar Series races, the longest active streak.

* Mario Moraes qualified seventh, his second consecutive top-seven start in the IndyCar Series. He started sixth at Kansas. Moraes started 31st in last year's "500."

* Marco Andretti qualified eighth, his fourth consecutive top-10 start in the Indianapolis 500.

* Will Power qualified ninth. He started 23rd as a rookie in last year's Indianapolis 500.

* Power has qualified in the top 10 in all three races he has competed in in 2009.

* Danica Patrick qualified 10th, marking the fifth consecutive season she will start in the top 10. Her best qualifying effort came as rookie in 2005 when she qualified fourth.

* Alex Lloyd qualified 11th in his second Indianapolis 500 start. He started 19th last year.

* Dan Wheldon did not make a qualifying attempt. He has started on the front two rows in five of his six starts in the Indianapolis 500. The only other year he started outside the top six was in 2005 (16th) when he won the race.

***

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Garages open
10:15-11:15 a.m. IndyCar Series practice
Noon-6 p.m. Second Day Qualifying

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Takuma Sato , Robby Gordon , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Tom Sneva , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Pancho Carter , Will Power , Roger Penske , Mario Moraes , Hideki Mutoh , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick , Johnny Rutherford , Jaques Lazier , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing