IndyCar: Castroneves on pole for Indy 500 as Bump Day claims its victims

By Andy Darley

CalendarMonday, May 24th, 2010

 
 

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves qualified on pole for this year’s race – but the man who believes he was the rightful winner of the Brazilian’s 2002 triumph, Paul Tracy, lost his place in the field of 33 as the final minutes of Bump Day ended in high drama.

Helio Castroneves celebrates his fourth pole position

Helio Castroneves celebrates his fourth pole position

Last year qualifying was conducted over a leisurely four days, with the first 22 places being filled a full week before the final 11 and the tension of Bump Day, where drivers outside the field attempt to set times fast enough to displace one of the previously-qualified cars.

But this year all 33 places were decided across just two consecutive days, putting tremendous pressure on drivers like Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan who suffered crashes that left them sitting on the sidelines while their cars were being repaired.

On Saturday Castroneves dominated the Fast Nine shoot-out for pole position, going out first and setting a four-lap average of 227.970mph – more than three mph faster than his pole-winning speed last year. His best lap, timed at 228.213mph, was the fastest by anyone all month.

Paul Tracy missed qualifying for the race

Paul Tracy missed qualifying for the race

The contrast with Tracy could not have been more marked – the Canadian, who passed Castroneves for the lead on the 199th lap of the 2002 race only to see his ‘win’ taken away because of a yellow caution flag on the far side of the 2.5 mile track, was attempting to qualify for the race as part of a limited schedule for KV Racing.

As Bump Day drew to a close he was in the field – but only just. He withdrew his time in an attempt to set a better one and make his place immune to challenge, but was unable to find the speed he needed and dropped out of the field.

Minutes later, British driver Jay Howard made exactly the same mistake for Sarah Fisher Racing – handing the 33rd and final place in the race to Columbian rookie Sebastian Saavedra, who had crashed heavily when practising for the final frantic hour of the day and was in hospital having an MRI scan when he heard the news.

Alongside Tracy and Howard in failing to make the race were perennial back-marker Milka Duno and also the number 41 car of AJ Foyt Racing, which was driven by Foyt’s grandson Anthony Foyt IV on Saturday and by veteran Jacques Lazier on Sunday.

The front row: Franchitti, Castroneves and Power

The front row: Franchitti, Castroneves and Power

Their speeds were some six miles an hour slower than the pace set by Castroneves the previous day as he bested Penske team-mate Will Power and Target Chip Ganassi rival Dario Franchitti for the number one place in the race.

Behind these three on the second row will be the final Penske car of Ryan Briscoe, the second Ganassi car of Scott Dixon, and between them the surprise package of qualifying – Alex Tagliani’s FAZZT Racing machine.

The Canadian made a strong debut in the race last year for Conquest Racing but this year he is back with a new team that he co-founded, proving far more competitive than anyone previously expected.

Sato crashed early on Saturday

Sato crashed early on Saturday

The final slots in the Fast Nine shoot-out were taken by Graham Rahal in a one-off drive for his father’s Rahal Letterman team, Hideki Mutoh of Newman/Haas/Lanigan, and Ed Carpenter for Panther Racing in a one-shot deal that has brought the ghost of his dormant Vision Racing team back to the track.

Outside of the top nine, but safely in the 24 places filled on the first day, were British drivers Justin Wilson (11th), Mike Conway (15th) and Dan Wheldon, who would have hoped for more than his 18th place in the line-up after finishing second last year. Alex Lloyd’s attempts to qualify fell short.

Kanaan caused Andretti Autosports' mechanics a lot of work

Kanaan caused Andretti Autosports' mechanics a lot of work

Also in the field on Saturday, if less safely, were three of the five women chasing places – Ana Beatriz in 21st, Simona de Silvestro in 22nd and Danica Patrick in 23rd.

Patrick is more used to qualifying near the front and was booed by the crowd when she said her lowly position was the fault of her car, not her driving – but she may have had a point, as all five Andretti Autosport cars struggled for pace.

Marco Andretti made it into the field in 16th, a place ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay who took two attempts to set a speed that would put him in the race. Patrick scraped in, John Andretti did not, and Kanaan lost control while chasing pole and destroyed his car – forcing his crew to prepare the spare, which had not been tested on the track all month.

One lucky driver: Sebastian Saavedra

One lucky driver: Sebastian Saavedra

Come Sunday he put even more pressure on himself by wrecking that car in a near-identical crash in practice, creating the possibility that one of the pre-race favourites would not even be in the contest.

When the 33 places had been provisionally filled, with the likes of Tracy, Howard, John Andretti, Sarah Fisher and Lloyd all slotting in, the four outside the race were Lazier, Duno, Kanaan and Sato, who had taken no part in Saturday’s action after crashing his Lotus-branded car in practice.

When Kanaan and Sato bumped their way into the field and Lazier and Duno proved not to have the speed to join them, the only question seemed to be which of Tracy or Howard would join the incapacitated Saavedra on the sidelines.

Howard said he hadn't expected to miss out

Howard said he hadn't expected to miss out

Both tried to take their fate into their own hands by attempting to set times the other couldn’t beat – but both fell short and, in doing so, put the 19-year-old Bryan Herta Autosports driver into the field instead of them both.

Afterwards the normally-ebullient Howard was lost for words as journalists sought an explanation for his failure to qualify, while Tracy broke down in tears in the post-qualifying interview room.

Castroneves, however, was smiling all the way to the extra championship points, prize money and most advantageous pit box that pole position had earned him.

2010 Indy 500 final qualifying positions

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 Flag of Brazil Hélio Castroneves
Team Penske
Flag of Australia Will Power
Team Penske
Flag of Great Britain Dario Franchitti
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
2 Flag of Australia Ryan Briscoe
Team Penske
Flag of Canada Alex Tagliani
FAZZT Race Team
Flag of New Zealand Scott Dixon
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
3 Flag of the USA Graham Rahal
Rahal Letterman
Flag of the USA Ed Carpenter
Panther Racing
Flag of Japan Hideki Mutoh
Newman/Haas/Lanigan
4 Flag of the USA Townsend Bell
Sam Schmidt / Ganassi
Flag of Great Britain Justin Wilson
Dreyer & Reinbold
Flag of Brazil Raphael Matos
de Ferran Dragon Racing
5 Flag of Brazil Mario Moraes
KV Racing Technology
Flag of the USA Davey Hamilton
de Ferran Dragon Racing
Flag of Great Britain Mike Conway
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
6 Flag of the USA Marco Andretti
Andretti Autosport
Flag of the USA Ryan Hunter-Reay
Andretti Autosport
Flag of Great Britain Dan Wheldon
Panther Racing
7 Flag of Venezuela E. J. Viso
KV Racing Technology
Flag of South Africa Tomas Scheckter
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Flag of Brazil Ana Beatriz
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
8 Flag of Switzerland Simona de Silvestro
HVM Racing
Flag of the USA Danica Patrick
Andretti Green Racing
Flag of Belgium Bertrand Baguette
Conquest Racing
9 Flag of Brazil Bruno Junqueira
FAZZT Racing Team
Flag of Great Britain Alex Lloyd
Dale Coyne Racing
Flag of Brazil Mario Romancini
Conquest Racing
10 Flag of the USA John Andretti
Richard Petty / Andretti
Flag of the USA Sarah Fisher
Sarah Fisher Racing
Flag of Brazil Vitor Meira
AJ Foyt Enterprises
11 Flag of Japan Takuma Sato
KV Racing Technology
Flag of Brazil Tony Kanaan
Andretti Green Racing
Flag of Columbia Sebastian Saavedra
Bryan Herta Autosport

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