Castroneves Tops Fast Friday Practice for the Indy 500

May 20, 2011

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 20, 2011) – Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves used the final minutes of Fast Friday to demonstrate that he still knows how summon superior speed around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion posted the fastest lap of the month on Friday as Team Penske continued to work on race setup and qualifying speed in preparation for the 100th anniversary Indy 500.

Castroneves and his No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Honda were clocked at 228.611 mph during Friday’s practice as teams zeroed in on Saturday’s Pole Day qualifying for the race. The other two Team Penske drivers were right there with Castroneves. Ryan Briscoe had the fourth-fastest lap of the day, while Will Power owned the seventh-fastest speed in practice. All three drivers got in plenty of work with each topping the 100-lap plateau in Friday’s six-hour practice.

Castroneves said the fast lap was an important step heading into Pole Day qualifying, as he’ll strive to win the top starting position for the fifth time in his career and a record three times in a row.

“It felt great today,” said Castroneves, who’s 117 laps were more than any other driver on Friday. “The Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car is working really well in both race trim and also the qualifying set-up. We had a little bit of tow on the fast lap, but we are happy with where the car is heading into qualifying. We ran a lot of laps today and all the Team Penske teams look to be in a pretty good position.”

Briscoe continued his solid practice performance on Friday. One day after he wound up third on the leaderboard, he recorded a top lap of 228.029 mph in the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda.

“Today was a good day for the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske crew - we completed a lot of laps,” said Briscoe. “We mostly ran race setups, which we needed after all the time we lost earlier in the week. We trimmed out the car at the end of the day and got good speed out of the car, but we haven’t found the limit yet. I’m happy where we finished the day, and we’re excited about tomorrow. It should be a really good day on Saturday for Team Penske.”

One day after clocking the fastest practice lap in the field, Power recorded a top speed of 227.958 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske machine to rank seventh on Friday.

“Today was the absolute perfect day to drive a race car at Indianapolis,” said Power. “There was no wind, good temperature and it was great to drive the Verizon car today. We had a very productive day. We logged plenty of miles, did a lot of race work and we also have a pretty  good read on how the car will be in qualifying. Having said that, I’m sure the conditions during qualifying tomorrow will be much different. We are in good shape going into tomorrow and I am looking forward to it.”

Teams will have one more practice session beginning at 8 a.m. ET Saturday morning before qualifying begins at 11 a.m. ET. The top 24 starters for the May 29 Indianapolis 500 will be locked in on Saturday. The top nine qualifiers will battle it out for the prestigious pole position between 4:30-6 pm ET as the starting order for the first three rows will be determined. Live coverage of qualifying begins Saturday at 11 am ET on Versus.

“Qualifying tomorrow will be very tight,” said Castroneves. “I can see that my teammates will be the strong ones and there are other guys doing fast times out there too. It will be interesting to see what happens in the fast nine. I think we will see speeds in the 228 range tomorrow. It’s going to be fun.”