INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 22, 2010 - Helio Castroneves saved his best for last during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves, the first of nine drivers to run during the final 90 minutes of qualifying, recorded a four-lap average speed of 227.970 mph to win the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone for the Indianapolis 500.
Sitting second to FAZZT Race Team's Alex Tagliani with 90 minutes left in the first segment of Pole Day qualifying, Castroneves and Team Penske withdrew the qualified time of the No. 3 Team Penske car for a shot at the top spot. With a four-lap average of 226.774 mph, he took the top position.
The designation gave Castroneves the first choice in the required qualifying run in Segment 2 of the new format. 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.
Power and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti (226.990), the 2007 race winner, also will start on the front row. Ryan Briscoe (226.554), Tagliani (226.390) and Scott Dixon (226.233), the 2008 winner, will share Row 2. Graham Rahal (225.519), Ed Carpenter (224.507) and Hideki Mutoh (223.487) will be on the third row.
In all, 24 drivers qualified for the May 30 race. The remaining nine spots in the field will be filled during Bump Day on May 23.
"Sitting in that car for an hour in half was not easy at all, especially with everyone getting closer and closer," said Castroneves. "I was like, 'Are we going or not?' because I can't handle that much pressure. It's great to have a 1-2 start for Team Penske. It's a shame that Ryan (Briscoe) didn't have his chance on the last one. It's great to be part of this team. We work so well together. I'm on the pole, but all three of us benefit from it. I'm very proud of my team; they did a great job today."