Helio Castroneves secured his 11th career Marlboro Pole Award on the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International road course this afternoon and second of the 2005 season, after earning fastest lap on the mile Pikes Peak oval. Castroneves, part of the...
Helio Castroneves secured his 11th career Marlboro Pole Award on the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International road course this afternoon and second of the 2005 season, after earning fastest lap on the mile Pikes Peak oval.
Castroneves, part of the Firestone Fast Six 10-minute shootout after single-car time trials, ramped it up on his fourth of seven laps to lead the pack with his lap of 133.806mph. At that he improved after being second to Scott Dixon in single-car qualifying. Castroneves had already thrown the gauntlet in the cool, crisp morning practice when he was quickest of all at 133.722mph.
"In single car I simply wanted to put it in the top six so I had to be sure not to make nay mistakes," Castroneves acknowledged. "Then I was just going to go for it and on the pole lap, for some reason the track felt better. I just kept hoping somebody wouldn't sneak one so I went for it," he laughed.
Giorgio Pantano improved from fifth to take second on the grid using his final and eighth lap to hit 133.774mph, well better than his earlier speed of 131.429mph. The Italian, making only his second IndyCar Series start, thinks the Watkins Glen circuit is "very technical and it's difficult to find the right line." Still, he had no problems this afternoon.
Also improving three slots from the initial qualifying session (from sixth), Patrick Carpentier starts third, his best start in his first season of Indy car racing. The French Canadian ace noted his team "made a couple of changes before the Fast Six session and we were half a second faster than we'd ever been before. We are slowly coming up to the front and all- in-all I am having a lot of fun!"
Scott Dixon was quickest in the single-car qualifying session yet fell to fourth (133.497mph) after the ten-minute shootout. Complaining from a lack of front grip, he still felt his car was "very consistent. We've got more chance for success tomorrow at the front of the field and this is," Dixon reminded, "a big momentum circuit."
Toyota claimed the top four slots, with Tony Kanaan taking fifth after being third before the shootout. Kanaan's fifth lap (of eight total) amounted to 133.381mph and he acknowledged, "We tried something different to get pole and it didn't work out for us," Kanaan said with a shrug. "Hey," I'm still happy. I told the guys they gave me a good car for the race."
Dario Franchitti starts sixth, using his fifth of eight laps to post 132.995mph. The Scot's part of the Andretti Green Racing team "tried some changes and didn't get the balance right. We had some good laps going but weren't able to capitalize. With the higher temperatures, we just lost balance," he said.
Vitor Meira, third quickest in morning practice will line up in seventh after logging 131.065mph and being the last car bumped from the Firestone Fast Six shootout. Hoping to make the elite session, Meira admitted he "left more than I'd like on the table. I had oversteer on one corner and the car pushed quite a lot. I made a slight mistake that probably cost me."
Teammate Buddy Rice, the ninth driver out will start eighth based on his 130.643mph lap. Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champ "matched my fast time and I've been on the same setup all weekend. I don't think we left anything out there," he conceded.
Newly crowned 2005 IRL champ Dan Wheldon blew his lap by spinning at the final turn but his tour of 130.493mph was still good enough for ninth. Wheldon got his left front tire in the grass but he still believes "the car is reasonable for the race."
Tomas Scheckter has improved his car throughout the three practices and will start tenth after completing his single qualifying lap at 130.381mph. Scheckter thought his car was good in the morning but still believed "it would be better. We're out of the top six because we didn't get to test at either of these road courses," Scheckter explained.
Recovering from a nasty shunt in practice this morning when he got loose and made heavy contact with the Turn 9 Armco barrier, Sam Hornish Jr. used his spare car to take 11th grid spot. "I took it too easy so I wouldn't make another mistake and I'm very happy with the way the guys put the T car together. This is not where I wanted to be," Hornish said. "Around this place, the less traction control you use, the better you'll be and I was using a bit much at that point."
Tomas Enge, whose shifter cable broke in Friday afternoon practice lines up 12th. Relegated first in line for time trials, Enge "improved the car but we were at too big a disadvantage going first. We're looking for wet conditions again tomorrow because we think we'll have an advantage over most of the guys."
Alex Barron said, "the wind changed on the back straight and the tires were not quite maximized" when he went out to qualify, placing the Californian in 13th for tomorrow's 60-lap enduro. Bryan Herta "expected better" than 14th and acknowledged his car is "a lot different from my teammates. We threw Dario's setup on it and I went faster than in practice, but not fast enough."
Kosuke Matsuura starts 15th but said his tire pressures didn't come up "and the car was bottoming a lot coming off turn 2 through the back straight, and under braking as well." Danica Patrick's 16th place start equals her position at the Infineon Raceway road course last month. The Bombardier Rookie of the Year point leader has road course experience "in light cars with low horsepower and tons of grip, and the Indy car is the opposite of that."
Roger Yasukawa starts 17th while Scott Sharp continues a tough weekend in 18th. Rookie Jeff Bucknum, in A.J. Foyt's Dallara/Chevy and Ed Carpenter, who hit the tire wall coming out of the final turn before taking the green, comprise the final row of the 20-car field.
The drivers are expecting a very fast pace for tomorrow's 60 laps of competition. "The race pace will be very, very fast," Carpentier decreed. With Castroneves turning the fastest lap ever on this circuit, the IRL's Spiderman is hoping he can use that speed to make it to the checkered flags first. "We'll have to all be patient and I'm sure everybody has a different strategy for this race. It's going to be exciting and a fast pace, no doubt."
The first annual Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Argent Mortgage takes the green flags at 3:45PM EDT and airs live on ABC Sports.