Helio Fastest of 36 in 500 Practice - Seven Rookies Pass Tests

Date: 5/17/2010 6:41:05 PM

May 17
Helio Fastest of 36 in 500 Practice
Seven Rookies Pass Tests

By Walter Elliott
 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Helio
Castroneves headed 36 other drivers in their top practice
speeds here May 15-16.
 Castroneves, of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Coral Gables, Fla.,
dodged on-and-off light rain Sunday afternoon to clock
39.6395 seconds around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor
Speedway. That time translated to 227.046 mph for the
Penske Racing No. 3 Dallara-Honda pilot.
 While Castroneves stood alone in the 227 mph bracket,
Target Chip Ganassi Racing rivals Scott Dixon attained the
226 mph level. Dixon mustered 226.202 and Franchitti
 Will Power, Castroneves' Penske colleague, scored 225.660,
ahead of Andretti Autosports' Tony Kanaan (225.524) and
HVM pilot Mario Moraes (225.043).
 The above sextet may be considered among the favorites
for the $170,000 pole day prize starting noon local time
Saturday. The fastest nine of up to 25 qualifiers, in a break
with the traditional straight-up four lap qualifying
proceedure, are to requalify for the pole position. This
process is similar to the "fast six" final qualifying round
found elsewhere on the IZOD Indy Car tour.
 The remaining seven open starting field places are to be
filled early Sunday afternoon with the bumping process to
immediately commence. The field is to be set for the 1:12
p.m. May 30 94th running when the 6 p.m. gun is fired May
 33 of the 36 drivers recorded 220-plus speeds, including
Ana Beatriz. Beatriz, in her third IRL IZOD Indy Car Series
event, came in 21st overall at 221.705 mph.
 Beatriz, Betrand Baguette, Jay Howard, Mario Romancini,
Sebastian Saavedra, Takuma Sato and Simone de Silvestro
all passed their four-stage Rookie Orientation Program by 6
p.m. Sunday. While Romamcini logged 89 of the seven's
461 laps, Saavedra was hampered by mechanical problems:
his fastest time, 36th overall, was 218.916 mph.
 All seven joined six veteran drivers who have taken a
refresher course and the remaining drivers in a late Sunday
open practice. Davey Hamilton (30th at 220.321) was
among the "refreshed."
 The rookies plus Dan Wheldon may be relieved not to be
practicing here Monday afternoon. The scheduled noon-6
p.m. session, as of 2 p.m., has been rain-delayed and may
be cancelled. There will be daily practoce sessions, weather
permitting, until noon Saturday.
 Wheldon became the first official wall banger of the month
Sunday afternoon. The Panther National Guard driver had
posted sixth fastest speed when he said the car began to
get uncomfortable.
  Wheldon was getting the car towards pit lane entry when
it spun into the outside turn four SAFER barrier. He was
treated and released with a bruised right foot.
 Among those practice timers of interest are:
 -- Graham Rahal (10th fastest at 224.340):
     In a matter of three days, father Bobby Rahal and co-team owner announced that Graham will race the No. 30 for the 500 and will have Quik Trim as their primary sponsor.
 -- AJ Foyt IV (15th at 22 2.702): 
     Foyt asked for a leave of absence from his year-round employer, the NFL Indianapolis Colts, through May 30. The grandson of the legendary A.J. Foyt is the football team's talent scout.

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