Castroneves leads Penske 1-2 in Indy 500 qualifying
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.
Graham Rahal qualified the McDonald's Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry on the inside of Row 2.
"We were completely legal, but there were some things that we felt we needed to improve on. Basically we felt we needed to go back out so we gave the McDonald’s car another shot and it turned out even better than the first time and we ended up gaining two spots because right before we made our second run we were sixth. So we’re pretty happy with fourth. We had one practice run before our second attempt and it was a little bit quicker so we decided to trim a little more. But when we went out we had a gearbox problem and it was 5 p.m. and people were starting to get in line so it was a little tense. The McDonald’s guys changed the gearbox in pit lane and we had to make our qualifying run without a practice lap because of the time. They did a great job fixing everything so quickly and I was able to go out and put it on the second row. I would rather start from the inside of the second row than the outside of the front row so I’m pretty happy with how the day ended for the McDonald’s team.”
The first 11 spots of the 33-car field were set on Pole Day. Positions 12-22 will be set May 10 for the May 24 race.
Pole Day Highlights
Pole Day qualification is in the books for the 2009 Indy 500, and Helio Castroneves is this year's pole sitter. Castroneves bumped teammate Ryan Briscoe in a late-afternoon run, and survived a late effort by Scott Dixon. Briscoe will start second, and Dario Franchitti third.
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "We were debating a wave-off, but we decided to just use as practice run and get one in the bank." (Good time to have multiple opportunities?): "Absolutely. That's a good point. We kind of went to the safe side on the first run. We didn't know what we were going to do on our own. It's hard to try to get laps on your own in practice. To an extent, it's useless on a practice run." (How is it with the wind?): "It's interesting, it really is. The toughest thing is, it's different every day. Turn 2 has an inherent understeer anyway, and today we're being pushed in there even quicker. If the wind picks up, we might have to settle for what we have."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "We had our ups and downs this week, but this is a pretty good run for the McDonald's car. With the wind the way it is, for us to have the McDonald's car sitting where we are looks pretty good. On a windy day like this, getting the car in the show is the main goal. Last year this wind would have made me pretty nervous, but this year you just kind of go through the motions and get used to it. I'm just excited to be here. It's great to have a run like we just did. It gives the whole team a lot of confidence."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "Just before you go out for that first qualifying run, it is pretty nerve-wracking. And it's really nice to get a good solid run in to begin with. Any sort of run is nice - just to get it out of the system. I think it just gets you into the groove and moves you forward for the rest of the day with a little more confidence." (On the conditions): "It's pretty hairy, especially today. It's very windy and as trimmed out as we are, you feel it a lot. Every corner feels different. And you have to get the speed up on the out lap, and the tires are cold so you're sliding around a bit, working the bars and the weight jacker to maintain a balance because over four laps the tires drop off a bit. I was able to maintain a pretty good balance and bring my lap times back up at the end of the run. You wouldn't think so, but it's pretty hard work out there. Every corner is distinct, especially Turn 2 today. It's a bit awkward with the tailwind going into it, and you're carrying a lot of speed and you got less downforce because the wind is behind you, so it just wants to push you out. It's pretty tricky there."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): "This morning's warm-up was not a lot of fun. I was just all over the place. I was very unhappy with the car. Then, the qualifying run, we got out there and had a really good warm-up lap; the fastest one I've done yet. Then I went into the run, came across the start-finish line and thought, 'This will be pretty good considering my warm-up lap,' and it just wasn't much different. Shocking; there was no reason. I was flat out. The car was pretty good, so I'd hate to think that our little adjustments (in morning practice) could have thrown us out of the ballpark, but, like, way out of the ballpark." (Did the windy conditions have anything to do with it?): "Actually, that was the best the car's felt all day by a landslide. It was like a dream car compared to this morning. So I would have to say that the wind didn't play a part out there this time." (The first year that you qualified here, when you had your big moment, was it really windy like today?): "It was really cold. Yeah, these are probably the worst conditions just because the wind is so much more influential and unpredictable, really. The first year, it was cold. It's cool today but not cold like it was that first day. But this is kind of the furthest I've ever been off in qualifying, so I'm not very happy about that and very confused." (On how the run compared to morning practice): "I was faster lifting this morning so I unfortunately didn't get very many flat-out laps, but one of them I got was about a 223, so I don't have any idea as to why this car is so much slower qualifying."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "We needed to make a change this morning before we qualified, and I think it was the right way to go. But I still struggled on my first run. The car was almost not driveable for me, and I did only 218. It's better, but not what we need to be in top 11."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): "It was just very gusty out there. I found in some corners I'd turn in and be quite loose, and in the next corner there would be a lot of push, and I'd have to get out of the throttle. You turn into Turn 1 and the car dives into the corner. It's quite a handful. It's difficult conditions. I was hoping for a better lap time. I couldn't quite get it to stick down in qualifying. So, I was frustrated I couldn't do a better time." (On being the first one out for qualifying): "The first one out there's always a little bit of pressure, but once you get going that's the last thing you're worried about. You're just thinking about trying to get the most out of your car. You know, these conditions today are difficult." (Note: Wilson's run was subsequently disqualified for a technical violation.)
WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless): "My line was really, really quite comfortable, to be honest. The team gave me a good car that was comfortable. The wind certainly makes it harder. I didn't quite need to be that conservative, but it was a good run. It's a fantastic change from last year because the team is so much more experienced. This has been a good month. The team was less experienced last year, and so was I. This year's a different story."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): (After first qualifying run): (About his multi-colored car): "It's Hideki's tub with parts off of my other car. Yesterday afternoon, we found out that the 11 car wasn't fast enough, and we didn't know why, so we just decided to change everything. We changed engines. We changed the gearbox. We changed chassis, and we did go 2 miles an hour quicker. What it is? We don't know. We'll find out this next week and try to see what really went wrong with that car. Definitely, we're not winning a beauty contest today. I've got to thank all of my guys for their effort in putting this car together. Whatever it takes: We're never going to give up, especially at this place. You really only need one good day here, and it's not today. It's Indianapolis all over again. All the drama and everything; it's so unpredictable. Today is really just the beginning. There are so many things that can happen between now and May 24, so there is no reason to be happy or upset right now. There are some people in better shape than others, but this place hasn't chosen a winner yet." (After second qualifying run): "We were down 8/10ths of a pound. Those are the rules. It's our mistake - not even a mistake. How can you blame somebody? The guys worked so hard all night long. The car was a little light, so we had to do it again. I have to thank the IndyCar for doing me a favor because I don't think I would have gone out again. I think I'm getting too old for this, so I am not going to go out there again. I came back out, and the track was better. The wind has died down. I was happy with my run before. Unfortunately, we were underweight a little bit. It's Indy. Nothing came easy for me. I wasn't expecting to have an easy day. We're pretty pleased. I just kept my focus. I wasn't angry. I wasn't happy. I wasn't unhappy. That's what I get paid to do. That's where I have the most amount of fun - inside the car. Qualifying the first day for us, at this point, it was almost a miracle for us. Last night I saw (my son) in the computer and when I opened the camera he said, "Daddy, go fast." I tried. I went faster than I went yesterday, for sure."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): (After second qualifying run): "Just to be here right now is awesome. I have to say that without this crowd here, without the support of the fans, there was no way I could have gotten through what I did." (About pressure of qualifying): "It's not over yet. There's still an hour and a half left. I hope they take it easy on the beer because I might want to drink one later on." (About withdrawing qualified run and re-qualifying): "Yes, it was a gamble, a big gamble. But we took a chance, and it paid off. But now that we're (on the pole), that's where the rest of them want to be, so it will be nerve-wracking for an hour and a half." (About the conditions): "It was magic the way the sun came out. Now I hope it is magic for me."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): (At end of qualifying): "It was better. I've got to tell you; I was still a little nervous coming down the back straight there to lead into my first completed lap going, 'Man, I really hope that this doesn't just end up the same.' But it was fine. The unfortunate part is that there is still speed on the table. I had to lift in Turn 2 for a couple of laps. I managed to get the last one in there without (lifting). But it's just disappointing because you know that there's more speed then. You know, I sat in the car for an extra 30 seconds, and I'm like, 'Put a half turn of front wing in; let's just go back out again.' But it's just not that simple." (Were the conditions any different than this morning?): "Not really, I don't think. I think it stayed fairly similar. The wind is the wind. It's been gusty. It's a little bit the luck of the draw."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy) (At end of qualifying): "Yeah, I feel safe. The track was definitely better. We picked up, but not as much as we really need to. The good thing is now we can get to work on the race car."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): (At end of qualifying): "I thought I was going to have a shot at the pole then and just couldn't get it done. We tried. You can't say we didn't try. We knew we had speed. I didn't go as fast as I was expecting. I felt confident that I was going to be able to at least defend my position. And I really thought I had a shot at getting the pole, but it didn't work out. I think the track got quicker. When we went into that qualifying run, I would have liked to have had a couple more practice runs. I knew I had a fast car, and I knew I was going to have a shot at it. So far, the Team Penske cars are looking pretty good. We've been solid all month. We tried to go out and get (the pole) back, but we couldn't get it done at the end of the day. It was just an unbelievable qualifying run by Helio (Castroneves) and Team Penske. He must be on top of the world at the moment. But I tell you, for me, second place at the Indy 500, second front row in a row, it's a great feeling, and I'm just so happy to be here. I know I've got a good car going into this race in a couple of weeks, and I just hope we can have a solid run, be at the front all day long and have a shot a winning this 500."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): (At end of qualifying): "We knew that before (on first qualifying attempt) we weren't quite trimmed out, and there is probably still a little room to go even now, but we needed to go out there and give it another shot. We were completely legal, but there were some things that we felt we needed to improve on. Basically we felt we needed to go back out, so we gave the McDonald's car another shot, and it turned out even better than the first time and we ended up gaining two spots because right before we made our second run we were sixth. So we're pretty happy with fourth. We had one practice run before our second attempt, and it was a little bit quicker, so we decided to trim a little more. But when we went out, we had a gearbox problem and it was 5 p.m., and people were starting to get in line, so it was a little tense. The McDonald's guys changed the gearbox in pit lane, and we had to make our qualifying run without a practice lap because of the time. They did a great job fixing everything so quickly, and I was able to go out and put it on the second row. I would rather start from the inside of the second row than the outside of the front row, so I'm pretty happy with how the day ended for the McDonald's team."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): (At end of qualifying): "I'm a little sorry we didn't get the pole. We are still on the front row. We made the best of what we had in the Target car. Everybody here wants to beat Penske, but you're fighting against AGR. And you have Newman/Haas/Lanigan. There are more and more teams coming out. The competition level is getting tougher and tougher. It's great for the fans. We knew we didn't have the pole speed. It was a pretty nerve-wracking. We were really concerned somebody would knock us off the front row. We went out and did seven practice runs. And on each of those runs, you are pushing it to the limit. It was a long day. It was fantastic being back and driving the car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It puts a smile on my face every time."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): (At end of qualifying): "All I can do now is come back (Sunday) and try to be the 12th qualifier. We tried hard, and the team did a great job. We gained some speed, but not enough. (Sunday) is another day."
MARIO MORAES (No. 5 KV Racing Technology/Votorantim) (At end of qualifying): "The team did a great job. They put the car together. Just did my part of the job, just driving, and I found some speed on the middle of the test, middle of the qualify. For my second time here, I think it was very good."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): (At end of qualifying): "Yeah, I think we improved the car slightly, plus the gusts have died down, so it wasn't quite as strong, so I was a lot happier. That was the fastest we've run pretty much all month so far, so I was hoping we could sneak in but just, not quite. Two-tenths of a mile an hour off." (Plan for tomorrow?): "We spent quite a bit of time discussing the changes we're going to possibly make. Right now I think we're in good shape, and we should hopefully make it through tomorrow since we only just missed out the top 11. But we want to make the car better, you know. If we can find this one item, we have this one problem, in particular, if we can fix that, I think that we can trim more and go faster and try and go for that 12th slot."
ALEX LLOYD (No. 99 HER CGR/SSM Racing) (At end of qualifying): "It was a tough day. The wind was hard. We went out early in the morning, and the car (balance) just wasn't there. We didn't have the balance or the speed we had Friday. We made some big changes. We put together a completely different car. Just then (qualifying run) was our first run, basically. It felt really good to me. We could have taken more downforce off and picked up more speed. I felt ready even though it was getting quite late before the gun was off. I was ready to go. That was a close one. We struggled a bit with the balance all day. Yesterday we were really strong, and today we couldn't get it. You know what, we just threw on a whole different setup then. We did one run earlier; kind of realized we needed to take out more downforce. We did that, and actually, the car felt great. We could have gone a little bit more and made it a little bit easier for ourselves. But I think we're pretty happy. I really just wanted to get in today. That was my main thing. I want to work on the race from now on. It was a great day for everyone at HER Energy. They're very excited to have their first taste of the Indy 500."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): (At end of qualifying): "It was a bit of a frustrating day. It wasn't terrible. The car was consistent; we just didn't have the speed. The car has a little shine on speed now and then. Qualifying fifth is a further back than we thought we would be. We know that anything can happen here. At least the pole gives you bragging rights for a couple of weeks. We did it last year, but this was a tough day for us. They (Team Penske) are a bit ahead of us. They have been since day one. The race will be different; that's the one that has a different pay check. Our first attempt was not very good. We gained a little bit later, but we got beat by Rahal. The conditions were fairly decent late. The wind had died down. It was one of those days when you try and chase the conditions and see what happens."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): "We knew going into the day that it was going to be tough to crack that top 11, but there were a few surprises. I wouldn't have expected Alex Lloyd to be there at the beginning of the day. I wasn't too happy with our first run, and we started to go back out at the end of the day to try again, but the qualifying line stacked up again. I think we could have gone 222 mph, but not 222 enough to get into that top 11. We decided to not waste another good set of tires and come back tomorrow, get it qualified and start focusing on the race. Definitely disappointed with where we have been on the charts the whole month. It's not where I envisioned before we got out there running. We just have to get over the shell-shock of that and get re-focused and make sure we have a really good race car that we can run up front with in the race."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing): (After first qualifying run): "Very difficult conditions today. It's very windy. We have to be very careful how much we push with the car and with the setup. We were able to put a very consistent run together, and hopefully that will be enough. It's very difficult. It's the same conditions we had this morning, so we had an idea of how the car is behaving under these conditions. I like the time. The car is pretty balanced. It's pretty consistent. I would love to be the top rookie. I would be very fortunate. I think we have a great shot."
PAUL TRACY (No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology): (On getting bumped): "For sure, I wanted to get in on the first day, but we knew it was going to be tough. We were right on the cusp of doing it. In practice, we were always around 11th, 12th or 13th. We knew we were right around that point, and we'll go back, think about it tonight and have a go tomorrow." (On not making a second qualifying attempt today): "It all depends on how much budget you have. If you have an extra $200,000, you can run unlimited miles and tires, but we didn't have that in our budget. That's just the way it is. My teammate's got a full budget. He's been out practicing today. The cars we're competing against to get in there are Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti Green -- that's the top 11, and those teams are tough to beat. So KV is the next one in line. If we had some more money and some more tires, maybe it would be a different story, but this is the way it is." (On the qualifying format): "This qualifying format really gives something for the fans to get excited about. I think it's good. It certainly created some drama today. I was the one on the bubble there, and that's not the best feeling in the world."
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