Team Penske Qualifies in First Three Rows For Indy 500

May 18, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 18, 2013) – AJ Allmendinger led Team Penske to a strong showing Saturday by qualifying fifth for the 97th Indianapolis 500. 

All three Team Penske drivers will start in the first three rows for the start of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on Sunday, May 26. Will Power will start sixth while Helio Castroneves will line up eighth after the Team Penske trio all showed good speed on Pole Day.

Allmendinger, competing in his first Indy 500, posted a four-lap average of 228.099 mph in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet during the final qualifying session among the fastest nine qualifiers from earlier in the day. He will start in the middle of the second row.

“I have to thank everybody at Team Penske, Will (Power) and Helio (Castroneves) and Rick Mears, everybody on this race team that worked so hard to make the IZOD Chevrolet so fast today,” said Allmendinger, who will start inside of teammate Power. “It’s such a fun team to be around and I really appreciate Team Penske and IZOD making this possible. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had when I let myself not be stressed about going out there and performing. It was just as intense as I expected it to be and I’m glad we got a great performance out of the day.”

Power recorded a four-lap average of 228.087 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, giving him the sixth-best starting position among the 33-car field. He recorded a speed of 229.119 mph on his first lap but had to fight to keep his highly trimmed-out car from sliding in the corners over the remaining three laps.

“We took everything off the Verizon Chevrolet and went for it and starting the last lap I was really fighting it to hold on,” said Power, who will start on the second row for the third consecutive year. ”Even the last two corners, you're like, man, I don't know whether this thing is going to stick. But it's good to be starting on the second row, and we'll see what we can do.”  

Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 winner, will start eighth after a four-lap qualifying average of 227.762 mph in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Dallara/Chevrolet. Saturday's effort marked the ninth time in his 13 Indy 500s that Castroneves has earned a starting spot among the first three rows.

“I talked to my Shell Pennzoil boys before we started and we decided to take a chance today so that we could have a shot at the pole,” said Castroneves, who still leads all active drivers with four career pole wins at the Brickyard. “Unfortunately I was sliding too much which caused me to lose a lot of speed. But at least we are going to sleep tonight knowing that we tried our best today to put up the best speed possible.”

Rain early in the day shortened the first qualifying session, in which Power had the fastest four-lap average of 228.844 mph. In the final session among the fastest nine qualifiers, Power was the final racer to take his four-lap run, but he wasn’t able to top polewinner Ed Carpenter’s average of 228.762 mph.

Castroneves had a shot at a fifth Indy 500 pole but couldn’t match his earlier four-lap run. Former Team Penske driver Rick Mears holds the record with six Indy 500 poles.

“We really wanted to win the pole, but ultimately today was just stretching another muscle to get ready for the race,” noted Castroneves. “We know for sure what we need to do for the race.”

Castroneves, Power and Allmendinger will attempt to help Team Penske extend its record of 15 Indy 500 wins when the race begins shortly after noon ET on ABC on May 26.

Before qualifying, Power posted the fastest lap of the week during practice – 229.808 mph.

“We had a lot of speed and it was a good way to start,” added Power. "We had real good balance and a shot at the pole which is what is what I’m happy about.”

Allmendinger, who is competing in the 500 for the first time after a decade-long career in open-wheel and NASCAR racing, was the only Penske driver to improve from his first-round qualifying speed during the final pole run among the fastest nine from the first round.

“I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have this chance,” Allmendinger added. “Thanks to Chevy for all the support they have given me, just everything it’s amazing.”

The final nine positions in the 33-car starting grid will be determined Sunday during bump day. During that time, drivers who have qualified for the race are allowed to practice for the race.

The 33-car field will have one final practice session during Carb Day activities on Friday, May 24 at 11 a.m. ET.

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