IRL: Castroneves claims St. Louis pole, instrument-free

Helio Castroneves won his second pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, breaking the track record set one year ago by his teammate Gil de Ferran. Castroneves toured the 1.25-mile oval at an average speed of 175.965 mph, clearly the fastest lap of the weekend.

Five cars surpassed de Ferran's old mark of 175.12 mph, set last August.

Helio Castroneves.
Photo by Michael Kim.
When Castroneves took to the circuit for his qualifying run, he soon found his dashboard lacked speed or timing data. "Everything shut off and I thought, 'Wow, I guess we just have to go for it.' That's what I did," said the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. "Maybe we need to do that once in a while, one of those things, to make sure we keep going faster.

"When I was going into my last lap, I saw the pylon, and was like, 'I don't see my number there, so I guess I really need to step on it,' and it worked."

Kenny Brack equaled his best qualifying spot and will start second after recording a lap at 175.777 mph. Brack, who had six poles in CART competition in 2001 and 2002, previously started second in an IRL race at Orlando in 1998.

"We had a really good lap, and I had a really good car," Brack said. "It takes a really balanced car to run well here. This track is different from the big superspeedways we run. You change down gears in the corners; you lift off at the end of the straights. You have to have a good set up and you have to do it right. We had both today."

Tony Kanaan, who was fourth fastest after practice with a best lap of 175.185 mph, will start third after finding a bit more speed. Kanaan qualified at 175.67 mph.

Castroneves' teammate, who won from the pole position at Gateway last year, will start fourth. De Ferran was second fastest in practice and despite a better lap in qualifying he will start from the outside of the second row. "It was a good qualifying session for us today," said de Ferran. Track position is important ere so we wanted to qualify in the top two rows."

Scott Sharp.
Photo by Michael Kim.
Prior to qualifying, Scott Dixon had recorded the fastest lap of the day at 175.785 mph. Dixon, who led both practice sessions, managed a lap at 175.37 mph, placing him fifth on the grid. "I think the first lap, I missed the downshift. It was all right. We just didn't have those couple of chances we needed or that chance we needed. I think it can be kind of a tricky place to get around, and we sort of missed a little going into these colder conditions. I'm sure we'll have a good car for tomorrow."

Bryan Herta will start sixth followed by Tomas Scheckter and Alex Barron in eighth starting position. Roger Yasukawa, the highest starting rookie and Tora Takagi round out the top ten.

Buddy Rice will start 11th driving a Dallara powered by the new Chevrolet Gen IV engine, the same engine that powered Sam Hornish to a second place finish at Michigan two weeks ago. Twelfth in practice, Rice found an extra two miles per hour to qualify at 172.100 mph. "We made some pretty big headway during qualifying compared to our last session in which we only got a few laps. I'm pleased with how we did. This is our best qualifying of the year."

Pleased with the new engine, Rice said, "This engine is a totally different animal in the way it works. With all the teams going into Kentucky with the new engine, I think it's going to be a big boost for everybody."