South Florida’s Helio Castroneves Steals the Show at Indy

Helio Goes for Four at Indy

Helio Castroneves recorded a four-lap average speed of 227.970 mph to win the Pole Award for the 2010 Indianapolis 500. Castroneves also claimed 15 bonus points which may help him win his first IndyCar Championship to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway (photo courtesy: Robert Laberge, Getty Images Sport)

South Florida resident Helio Castroneves saved his best for last during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves is seeking to become the fourth driver to win the Indy 500 four times. 33 winners of the Indy 500 have gone on to win the IndyCar Championship. Saturday, Castroneves showed that he is focused on winning the Indy 500 and the IndyCar Series Championship—to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2—on his home track of Homestead-Miami.

“It's great to be part of this team,” said Castroneves. “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."

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 Pole Award for the Indianapolis 500. A sign of things to come? To be there for the crowning of the 2010 IndyCar Champion, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Said Castroneves: "Sitting in that car for an hour in half was not easy at all, especially with everyone getting closer and closer. 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.”

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.

The new qualifying format may add to the drama during the Homestead-Miami Championship: The 16 other IndyCar Series races – including Homestead-Miami Speedway – award one point to the Pole winner and two points to the race lap leader. Saturday, Castroneves earned the Indianapolis 500 pole to claim 15 bonus points. Points will be awarded to all 33 starters – from three for starters on the last three rows to 13 and 12 for the other front-row starters. The top five drivers are separated by 28 points, which will set up another tight race to the season finale Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Power and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti (226.990), the defending IndyCar Champion – crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall - 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.

Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)— qualified 23rd -- her worst-ever Indy 500 start -- and was booed by the crowd following her four-lap run of 224.417 mph.

"I've never been bad here before," Patrick said. "I've never been outside the top ten on a finish or qualifying so, um, it's not my fault. The car is not good."

Patrick will start behind two other women — Brazil’s Ana Beatriz and Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro, who were 21st and 22nd, respectively and Patrick was nearly in danger of being bumped out of the field.

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.

Patrick, Castroneves, Dixon, Franchitti and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Sunday, May 30, in Race 6 at Indianapolis (12 p.m. EST on ABC, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (Oct. 1-2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.


 

Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers

Andretti Autosport Teammates

"I don't cry much; the other Brazilian [Helio Castroneves] does that."
--South Florida's Tony Kanaan on an emotional day at Indy

Qualifications went well for South Florida resident Helio Castroneves but other South Florida drivers were not as fortunate.

Key Biscayne’s Tony Kanaan suffered two almost identical accidents in the same part of the track during qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Kanaan was in danger of missing the race if not for a full team effort by Andretti Autosport. Kanaan was back on the track after he crashed for the second time in less than 24 hours by piecing together parts of Kanaan’s primary car and the qualified car of Boca Raton native Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Said Kanaan:“Ryan Hunter-Reay gave me his gearbox so I could run today. I had Danica's engine cover. I used Marco's front wing. Now you know why I do so much for this team. It was a very emotional day. I don't cry much; the other Brazilian [Castroneves] does that."

Late Sunday afternoon, Kanaan qualified with a four-lap average of 224.072 mph, which put him in the middle of Row 11. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion hugged his crew members after enduring one of the tougher days in recent Andretti Autosport history. Previously, Kanaan had never qualified outside the Top 6 for the Indy 500 since his career began in 2002.

"Things turn around so quick here," said Kanaan. "We had a car to be in the top nine and we were a bit too greedy (Saturday) and ended up crashing. This morning, we don't know what happened. I thought I was having a dream about yesterday's crash.”

South Beach resident Marco Andretti qualified 16th in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport car.

Said Andretti: "I would have loved to put the Venom car in the top nine but we didn't have the speed. The car was just super loose during our run today and when that happens, your lap time drops. I was all over the cockpit working tools, trying to bring the car back in balance.”

Miami resident Mario Moraes also spun and struck the wall in Turn 2 on the fourth and final lap of his initial attempt to qualify. He climbed from his car without assistance after suffering moderate damage to the rear wing and body parts of his car.

"The track went a little too hot," said Moraes afterwards. "We made some changes on the car, but I don't think it was enough to cause the accident, he continued. He was unhurt and was later cleared to return to competition, and made it into the field with a speed of 224.888 mph.

Miami’s Raphael Matos posted a four-lap average of 225.028 to qualify 12th, missing the Top 9 shootout for the pole position by just 0.138 seconds.

"We had a good qualifying run," said Matos . "Our target was high 224 or low 225 and we were able to achieve that. The conditions were extremely tricky today with the track temperatures and the wind. One end was very loose and the other corner had understeer. It was tough, but the team did a great job with the set up."

The road to fall glory in Miami continues Sunday, May 30, in Race 6 at Indianapolis (12 p.m. EST on ABC, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (Oct. 1-2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Where South Florida Drivers Qualified
1. Helio Castroneves
12. Raphael Matos
13. Mario Moraes
16. Marco Andretti
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay
19. E.J. Viso

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