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Castroneves Turns Top Lap Of Month, Eyes Pole

Practice Results | Qualifying Draw | Trackside Report

Helio Castroneves laid down a marker of 228.611 mph that roused the sun-soaked crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and raised a few competitors’ eyebrows on Fast Friday, May 20. Great. All he has to do is come close to replicating it during four-lap qualifications and then in the “Fast Nine” shootout, and he’ll earn a record third consecutive Indianapolis 500 pole start.

“That’s all?” Castroneves joked following the six-hour session in which 39 drivers prepared for Pole Day by recording 2,254 laps on the 2.5-mile oval. Eight different teams were represented in the top 10 of the speed chart, and the field was separated by 1.0729 seconds.

“Anything is possible,” said Castroneves, a three-time winner of the 500 Mile Race. “There is something more in the car, but I think a lot of others have something more, as well. Qualifying will be very tight. I can see that my teammates will be strong and there are other guys doing fast times out there, too.

“I think we will see speeds in the 228 range. It’s difficult to have a clean lap because we have 40 cars, which is very impressive. All my experience here, I never had this type of a scenario that we have so many cars around the track, which shows the series is getting stronger every year. It's going to be fun and can't wait to go out there … and hopefully good numbers will be good enough for tomorrow.”

The top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available through traditional four-lap attempts from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Each car will have up to three attempts, and bumping begins when the 24 spots are filled. The times of the top nine drivers from this first segment of qualifying will be erased at 4 p.m., with all of those competitors guaranteed to start no worse than ninth.

From 4:30-6 p.m. the “Fast Nine” will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt and additional/optional attempts are available if time permits. Each driver’s best run will set their position on the starting grid.

Indy qualifications also have an impact on the championship, with 15 points awarded to the pole sitter through three points for starting 25th-33rd. Only the PEAK Performance Pole Award winner in the other 16 IZOD IndyCar Series races receives the bonus (one point).

Castroneves won the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone in 2010 with a four-lap average speed of 227.970 mph. Sebastian Saavedra (223.634) was the slowest of the 33 starters, and the field average was 224.974.

Alex Tagliani (228.327) remained strong in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, while Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car was third (228.181) on the speed chart. Ryan Briscoe, driving the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske car, was fourth (228.029), and Bertrand Baguette cracked the top five (228.028) in the No. 30 RACB/Aspria Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Special.

“We worked a lot on our qualifying setup, and we found many good things in the car,” said Baguette, who seeks to qualify for his second 500 Mile Race. “At the end of the day, the car was really quick and consistent, and that’s what we were looking for. Now we just have to do it again tomorrow.”

Positions 25-33 are available on Armed Forces Day/Bump Day (May 22). Bumping begins once 33 cars have qualified.

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2011 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, “The Most Important Race in History,” on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2011 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

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