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Marco Andretti paces Thursday practice
Marco Andretti
32 car/driver combinations totaled 2,199 laps in preparation for Pole Day Qualifications at Indy Thursday. "Saturday will be very exciting," said two-time race winner and two-time pole sitter Helio Castroneves.

Six different teams were represented in the top 10 on the speed chart, with Andretti Green Racing's Marco Andretti recording the quickest lap of 30.9152 seconds (225.478 mph) in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy car.

"It's definitely a good start," said Andretti, who has finished second and third in three 500-Mile Race starts. "It definitely shows that we have the speed. On our own we're still not quite sure. We got a lot of tows today, which is a good thing, but a lot of times we don't know where we truly stack up.

"But I'm really happy with the car's balance. And I think that's the key - getting the balance right and being able to take a trim. That's the name of the game. We'll have to see if we can keep up with it, if not get a little better."

Castroneves again showed he's ready to challenge for the pole with a quick lap of 225.237 mph (39.9579 seconds) set with 38 minutes left in the session. Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe (224.837; 40.0290) was third and Scott Dixon, the 2008 pole sitter and race champion, was fourth (224.448; 40.0983) in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. His teammate and 2007 Indy 500 champion, Dario Franchitti, was fifth-quick (224.160; 40.1499).

"The Team Penske boys did an incredible job," Castroneves said. "The car was just superb right out off the truck.  We wanted to take advantage of the day; it was just awesome. It started off a little cooler then progressively started warming up and we just decided to keep going.  Right now, we feel very solid."

The lone caution for an on-track incident involved the No. 21 Vision Racing car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay that made contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier.

"Contact with the wall was setback in respect to we didn't get a lot of track time as a result," said Hunter-Reay, who posted 41 laps with a best of 218.329 mph. "We (20 of Ed Carpenter and 21 cars) started out going two different ways at the beginning of the day and now we're going to come back towards a mutual set-up that I think with suit both of us. The contact with the wall was light, by Indianapolis standards anyways, and didn't do as much damage as you might expect here. Looking back on the day, it's not the way you want it to end, especially the first day at Indy. We're working on it and tomorrow will be a completely different day."

Practice Thursday for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed: 
1. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 225.478
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 225.237
3. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 224.904
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 224.448
5. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 224.160
6. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 224.022
7. (06) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 223.592
8. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 223.253
9. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 222.996
10. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 222.896
11. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 222.745
12. (15) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 222.671
13. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 222.595
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 222.572
15. (16) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 222.437
16. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 222.150
17. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 221.910
18. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 221.655
19. (44) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 221.624
20. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 221.221
21. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 221.200
22. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 221.142
23. (41) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 221.041
24. (13) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 220.942
25. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 220.646
26. (2) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 220.227
27. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 219.745
28. (34) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 219.485
29. (00) Nelson Philippe, Dallara-Honda, 219.453
30. (21) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 218.329
31. (98) Stanton Barrett, Dallara-Honda, 218.089


MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, fastest): "It's definitely a good start. It definitely shows that we have the speed. On our own, we're still not quite sure. We got a lot of tows today, which is a good thing, but a lot of times we don't know where we truly stack up. But I'm really happy with the car balance. And I think that's the key - getting the balance right and being able to take a trim. That's the name of the game. We'll have to see if we can keep up with it, if not get a little better."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): "Just to be here again in Indianapolis, it's a dream come true. It's much more special this year, everything that happened the last six months. Just to be here, I appreciate it so more, the fans, especially. I feel welcome, as always. The Team Penske boys did a super job. The car is just superb out of the truck, just super good. We wanted to take advantage of the day; it was just awesome. It started a little cooler, progressively warming up, and we decided to keep going. Right now we feel very solid, and it's going to be very tight every day the next few days, especially qualifying. It's four laps, not only about one lap, so you're going to see a lot of pole positions, but on the last lap it might not be the pole position, so Saturday's going to be very exciting."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, third): "I'm happy with how today went. We got a ton of laps in, and I think we're in good shape. We were able to do quite a bit of setup work during the session, which gave us the opportunity to really pick away at it. I felt good coming into the month of May, and after today I'm definitely satisfied with how the Team Penske car is handling."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): "It's good to be back out there. It was definitely a lot of fun. The weather was kind to everybody today. It was good to get some laps in, and I think a lot of people got a lot of laps in considering the short schedule. Tomorrow is already 'Fast Friday.' We had a lot of stuff to get through, and I think we got through a majority of our major changes. Tonight is going to be a lot of work, trying to sit down and going through it all. The No. 9 and No. 10 Target cars are both pretty consistent speed-wise. We didn't trim out as much as some of the others. Maybe that can help us tomorrow. All in all, it was a pretty comfortable day."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth): "It was a long day, especially since we started early this morning. I think everyone expected it to rain, and the weather just improved as the day went on. The Target car definitely has the speed. We just need to make it a little more consistent. It's good to be back at Indianapolis. I was worried that I wouldn't be up to speed, but my second lap was above 220 (mph), so I was pretty happy."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, sixth): "It was reasonably productive. I think the National Guard Panther Racing No. 4 car has got some good speed. We got a couple of inherent little things that we need to fix certainly if we're going to be up front for qualifying. I think the team is capable of doing that. It's great to have Scott Sharp on the team, too. He's got a lot of valuable input. And I think, as we've seen before, he's very good around here."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, seventh): "I'm so happy to be here at the Indy 500. I was here before for the Formula One races in 2005 and 2006, but to be here for the Indy 500, you know you are part of something special. You feel the vibe when you see the row of bricks and feel part of the history. I really like driving on the ovals. Rookie Orientation went well, and I was able to get up to speed quickly, so I was looking forward to getting back on track. Arie Luyendyk has been coaching me and helping me make some changes to the car, and we have run well. It has been fun today. We stayed inside the top four for most of the day, and it is looking good. It was nice to be P1 for a while even though it's just testing. It's a good motivator for everybody, including the driver. I'm feeling comfortable, and I really enjoy driving here. I liked the qualifying format in Kansas, and I am looking forward to doing it here where it has always been done this way."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, eighth): "I have to say I was really happy with the Boost Mobile car this morning, but as the afternoon went on I was unable to find more speed. We are working hard to find what we need to be ready for Saturday's qualifying run. But overall I can't complain about today's session."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, ninth): "The new McDonald's car seems pretty quick. It feels really good; it's very comfortable to drive. We made one change that we ended up going back on because it wasn't as good as what we had before, but we're making steady progress, and we were looking good there at the end. It's just unfortunate that we didn't get to do any tire runs because we had a gearbox issue. We had done a 223 (mph) on an out lap, which wasn't flat, which says a lot. The speed is definitely there. Helio (Castroneves) seems to be really fast on his own, but I think we're close behind. I feel pretty good about our day, and I can't wait to get back out there again tomorrow to see how the car is. The McDonald's car, handling-wise, is pretty comfortable, it's really nice to drive. I think we have made a lot of gains since we ran here last year. I'm definitely looking forward to qualifying because I think we have a shot at being on the first couple of rows."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless, 10th): "It was a good day for Team Verizon Wireless. We worked away it, and I think we found a good balance with the car. We were patient with how we approached things today, and I know I'll be able to push it when I need to for qualifying. We know what we need to work on, and we're looking forward to getting back out on track on Friday."

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