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Castroneves Blitzes To Fourth Career Indy Pole After Exciting Shootout

Pole Day Qualifying Grid

Sitting second to FAZZT Race Team's Alex Tagliani with 90 minutes left in the first segment of Pole Day qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves withdrew the qualified time for a shot at the top spot.

Tens of thousands of sun-soaked spectators shook their collective heads as they watch the jumbo screens ringing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and the vivacious Castroneves believed they could get more out of the No. 3 Honda-powered Dallara around the 2.5-mile oval.

So Castroneves left the starting line and returned 2 minutes, 38.7485 seconds later to the cheers of those spectators, additional knowledge to use in the 90-minute Fast Nine pole shootout, the top position that allowed him the first selection in the required Segment 2 qual order, and pit stall closest to pit out on Race Day. However, he had to repeat or beat the 226.245 mph four-lap average speed to retain the spot.

This time, he left spectators and the eight other challengers shaking their heads with a four-lap average of 227.970 mph – more than 3 mph faster than his pole-winning speed last year. The run included a lap of 228.213 mph – the fastest of the month.

But as the format was designed, drama ensued as 18 total attempts were made to steal Castroneves’ thunder (and the $175,000 payday to the pole winner). He wore a nervous smile as Team Penske

teammate Will Power posted a four-lap average of 227.578 mph and others came close.

Finally, he could breathe easier and celebrate with his crew. It will be the fourth Indy 500 pole start for Castroneves (second-, third-, and first-place finishes), and he’s the first back-to-back pole winner since Scott Brayton in 1995-96. It was his fourth career Indy pole, tied for second all time, and the 16th Indianapolis 500 pole for Penske Racing.

“Sitting in that car for an hour in half was not easy at all, especially with everyone getting closer and closer,” said Castroneves, who became the fourth four-time pole sitter as he seeks to become the fourth four-time winner. "I was like, 'Are we going or not?' because I can’t handle that much pressure.
“I think I need a raise after today. Man, it was the hardest thing to go out there. The second attempt was really crucial for us. It’s great to be part of this team. We work so well together. I’m on the pole but all three of us (Power and Ryan Briscoe) benefit from it."

Power and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti (226.990), the 2007 race winner, also will start on the front row.

"When I saw Helio’s time, I thought that’s crazy fast," said Power, the IZOD IndyCar Series points leader who has four front-row starts in six races. "But when I put the downforce level he had on a bit later, I was up there in the high 227s. I should have done that when it was warmer and the air was thinner, but that comes down to experience and he has great experience here.

"It's pretty tough to beat Helio at Indianapolis."

Briscoe (226.554), Tagliani (226.390) and Scott Dixon (226.233), the 2008 winner, will share Row 2. Tagliani dropped a row in the Pole Shootout.

“I kind of had an idea a little bit that somebody was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the top nine qualifying,” he said. “That's what happens. But I think it's almost normal. We're not there yet. It's our first Indy 500 as a group. For what they accomplished this week, I think I'm very proud of the team.”

Graham Rahal (225.519), driving the No. 30 The Quick Trim/Rahal Letterman Racing entry for his father, 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal; Ed Carpenter (224.507), a one-off participant in the No. 20 Panther/Vision Fuzzy’s Vodka car; and Hideki Mutoh (223.487) in the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic car for Newman/Haas Racing will be on the third row.

“I felt coming in that the Panther cars had good speed,” said Carpenter, who has finished fifth and eighth the past two years. “Dan (Wheldon) was really fast at Kansas. It wasn't like we didn't think we were going to have a chance at the top nine. From eighth to 15th, it was pretty tight the past couple days. You didn't really know where everything was going to come together until today.

“Today was a lot different day than the other days with the sun shining and the track temperature being up. I’m happy. It's my career-best start (at Indy). Being up in the first three rows, I think it opens things up for the race a little bit better. You're definitely in the lead pack running with the guys you need to race with for the win.”

Thirty-six qualifying attempts were completed in Segment 1 that filled the 24 available positions. The remaining nine spots will be filled May 23 on Bump Day.

***

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Castroneves Blitzes To Fourth Career Indy Pole After Exciting Shootout
 
Castroneves Blitzes To Fourth Career Indy Pole After Exciting Shootout
Helio Castroneves left spectators and the eight other challengers in the Fast Nine shaking their heads with a four-lap average of 227.970 mph – more than 3 mph faster than his pole-winning speed last year - to win the Peak Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone for the 2010 Indianapolis 500. The run included a lap of 228.213 mph – the fastest of the month.
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