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Castroneves Wins Indy 500 Pole for Penske Racing

May 10, 2009

Photo courtesy of IMS Photo



INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 9, 2009) - Helio Castroneves won the pole position for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Saturday, the third Indy 500 pole of his career and a record 15th for Penske Racing.

His teammate, Ryan Briscoe, was Castroneves' primary competition for the pole. Castroneves supplanted Briscoe for the No. 1 position with a four-lap average of 224.864 mph, then held on as Briscoe withdrew his earlier effort - still good enough for second on the grid - and tried to take the pole position from his Team Penske partner.

Briscoe's effort came up just short, however, and he settled back into the No. 2 starting position on the middle of the front row. Will Power also successfully qualified for Penske Racing and will start ninth in the famed race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 24.

Meanwhile, Castroneves will take aim at his third Indy 500 victory from the No. 1 starting spot.

"This place is magic, man," Castroneves said. " It's just amazing. Ryan and I were really strong. A couple of times I thought it was going to be tough. When we were trying to decide if he was going to try to beat me, I was like, ‘Don't make me make this decision. Don't go back out there.'"

Briscoe, already in second place on the starting grid, withdrew his time and took the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda back on track with just minutes remaining in the windy and wild six-hour qualifying session. Briscoe turned four laps at an average of 224.083 mph, not enough to top Castroneves' effort in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, but enough to retain second place.

"It was pretty hairy out there," Briscoe said. "As trimmed out as you are, you really feel the wind. Every corner feels different. You have to get out there fast on the out lap, and your tires are cold so you're sliding around. You wouldn't think so, but it's pretty hard work out there."

Power, driving the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless Dallara/Honda, averaged four laps at 223.028 mph and will start on the outside position of the third row.

"My line was really quite comfortable, to be honest," Power said. "The team gave me a car that was comfortable. The wind certainly makes it harder. I didn't need to be that conservative, but it was a good run."

Briscoe held the top spot for most of the day until Castroneves topped him at 4:19 p.m. Briscoe then went back out on the track at 5:51 p.m. - just nine minutes before the end of the session -- hoping to record something better than 225 mph.

"I thought I was going to have a shot at the pole but just couldn't get it done," Briscoe said. "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."

Castroneves said the late-afternoon run that unseated his teammate was risky, mostly because he had to withdraw his previous time. A crash or bad lap would have been disastrous. Instead, he won another pole position for the world's biggest race

"It was a gamble, a big gamble," Castroneves said. "But we took a chance and it paid off."

After more qualifying and practice this weekend and next, the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to begin 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 24. The race will be televised live by ABC-TV.