Power Leads Team Penske Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Effort
May 21, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 21, 2011) – Team Penske fell short of its goal of winning its 17th Indianapolis 500 pole position and the team encountered some disappointment Saturday during Pole Day qualifying for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500, but Will Power ended the day on a positive note for the team as he earned a fifth-place starting position for the Memorial Day weekend classic.
Power led the way for Team Penske by earning a spot in the “Fast Nine” and the right to fight for the pole at the end of the long day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He posted the fifth-fastest time in the pole shootout in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda and will start in the middle of the second row when the Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag on Sunday, May 29.
Unfortunately, Team Penske’s other two drivers were frustrated by Saturday’s results. Helio Castroneves, who posted the fastest lap of practice leading up to qualifying on Friday and was trying to win a record three Indy 500 poles in a row, will start 16th in the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car as the No. 3 Team Penske team just couldn’t find the speed it needed. Ryan Briscoe, who had the fourth-best lap of the week on Friday, crashed during the practice session before qualifying on Saturday morning and was unable to qualify his backup car among the top 24.
After posting an average speed that ranked seventh on the leaderboard in the opening segment of qualifying, Power recorded a four-lap average of 226.773 mph in the Verizon machine during the Fast Nine pole run. Alex Tagliani won the pole for Sam Schmidt Motorsports with an average speed of 227.472 mph.
"It was a bit of a surprising day really,” said Power, who saw his pole winning streak snapped at four races but secured his second consecutive top-five Indy 500 starting position. “We maybe got caught out a little, but the Verizon car was strong today and we have a great race car. I am really happy to be in the show. Row two is a good place to start this race. Congratulations to (Alex) Tagliani and Sam Schmidt – they have been showing good speed all week and they deserve to win this pole. Thanks to Verizon Team Penske for all they do to give me a shot at winning this historic race."
Castroneves had a four-lap average of 225.216 mph in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Honda. The three-time Indy champion was in line to qualify a second time and try to earn a spot in the Fast Nine when rain doused the 2.5-mile superspeedway, effectively ending the first segment of qualifying and locking in the top 24 starting spots.
“Well, to be honest, it was kind of a challenging day for the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra team,” said Castroneves. “We tried some different things today on the car and we didn’t get the speed we were hoping for. The weather also made things difficult and I think we could have improved our position and tried to make the top nine if the rain didn’t come before four o’clock. We have proven that we can win this race starting from outside the top-10 before and that’s certainly our goal now. We will focus on our strategy for the race over the next week and Team Penske will be ready next Sunday. I also want to say congratulations to Alex (Tagliani) and his team. Awesome job guys!”
Briscoe had hoped to compete for the pole, but the morning practice accident affected the IZOD team’s results throughout the day. After spinning and making hard contact with the wall in Turn 2, Briscoe bruised his knees but was checked out and cleared to drive. The No. 6 crew did an amazing job preparing the backup car and Briscoe actually returned to the track just about an hour after the crash. The performance of the T car just wasn’t the same as the primary IZOD car, however, and Briscoe wasn’t able to make the top 24 on the grid. The team will try for the 25th starting position on Sunday.
“Today was a really hard day,” said Briscoe. “After we lost the primary car, the team did everything they could to get the T car prepared in time to run a few laps before the end of practice this morning. After I got back on track, I got my confidence back very quickly. We just weren’t going to have the same speed in the T car as we did in the primary. We will work hard tonight and get after it tomorrow in the No. 6T IZOD Team Penske car.”
While the results weren’t what Team Penske was hoping for on Saturday, the team and its drivers remained optimistic about winning the historic running of the race.
“Roger (Penske) loves this track,” said Power, who put things in perspective for the team that has won the Indy 500 a record 15 times. “He loves this place. He loves to get the pole. He loves to win. It’s such a long race. You can most definitely make up a lot of positions in this race. The pole would have been great, but I would really rather have a really good race car.”
The final nine Indy 500 starting positions will be determined during Sunday’s Bump Day qualifying session, which begins at 12 pm ET.
The 100th anniversary Indy 500 will be seen live on ABC beginning at 12 pm ET on May 29.