Helio Indy 500 Poleman; Saavedra "Backs" in

Date: 5/25/2010 2:59:04 PM

May 23
Helio Indy 500 Poleman; Saavedra "Backs" in 
By Walter Elliott
 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The Indianapolis 500 Pole/Bump
Day weekend, from Helio Castroneves' pole run to
Sebastian Saavedra watching Jay Howard's
overtime qualifying bid fizzle, provided an exciting prelude
to May 30's race.
 Castroneves, with a four-lap 227.970 mph speed, came
away from the inaugural Fast Nine Shootout Saturday
with his career fourth pole position. Saaverdia meanwhile
watched, from a hospital bed, fellow rookie Jay Howard's
final bumping bid fall short Sunday night.
 Castroneves and Saaverdia, who clocked a 223.634 mph
average Sunday afternoon, are the polar ends of the 33-
car field set for the 94th running of the 500 here at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 1:12 p.m. local time May
30. The fastest 33 cars and drivers were sorted out from
among 37 drivers of Dallara-Hondas during the
deliberately shortened two-day qualifying sessions. 
 Castroneves, who has set the pace in most of the
previous week's practice sessions, found himself second
fastest to Penske Racing teammate Will Power early
Saturday morning. The defending 500 winner and Penske
Racing President Tim Cindric then chose to withdraw their
first time and requalify.
 The No. 3 Dallara-Honda pilot then charted his 227.970
mph four lap average - including two laps in the 228
range - to lead the Fast Nine qualifiers 4:30 p.m.
Saturday. Power mustered a 227.578 in his Verizon
Penske No. 12, followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing
No. 10 driver Dario Franchitti at 226.990.
 The trio respectively received $175,000, $75,000 and
$50,000 in PEAK Automotove Products and IMS prize
money. The fastest nine - which also included Ryan
Briscoe, Alex Tagliani, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Ed
Carpenter and Hideki Mutoh - were determined after the
first 24 drivers had qualified mid-Saturday afternoon.
 Castroneves, more importantly, earns one of the most
popular starting places for drivers to win "The Greatest
Spectacle in Racing" from. The Brazilian native of Coral
Gables, Fla. joins A.J. Foyt and the late Rex Mays as
having the second most individual pole positions, with
Rick Mears standing alone at six.
 Rahal, of Hillard, Ohio, qualified the Quik Time Rahal
Letterman Racing No. 30 seventh at 225.519 mph.
Nazareth, Pa. native Marco Andretti attained 16th aboard
the Andretti Auotsports No. 26 Venom car at 224.575.
  Firestone Indy Lights veteran Saaverdia survived both
the bumping process and crashing in turns one and two
in qualifications' last 73 minutes Sunday. The William
Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport No. 29 driver entered the
field 12:23 p.m. Sunday - some 13 minutes ahead of
Howard, aboard the Sarah Fisher Racing No. 66, turning
Takuma Sato into the first bumped driver.
  Things appeared to go wrong for Saaverdia during the
4:11-50 p.m. practice when he half-spun into the wall.
After complaining of back pain, he was taken to nearby
Methodist Hospital for a precautionary MRI scan.
  Howard first got into the field until Sato, aboard the
Lotus-KVT No. 5, bumped back at 5:41 p.m. Howard
logged a 223.610 average 5:45 p.m. 
  Then Fisher borrowed Cindric's page and withdrew
Howard's second speed. The move brought Saavedra,
who was bumped by Mario Romancini at 5:33 p.m., back
into the field.
  KV Racing also withdrew Paul Tracy's time - as did
several other crew chiefs of their drivers' times while the
2.5- mile oval became hotter and slicker that afternoon.
 Tracy waved his No. 15 off after two 223 mph laps at
5:50 p.m. Jacques Lazier, who suceeded A.J. Foyt IV in
the No. 41 Foyt entry that morning, pulled off after a
warmup lap at 5:53 p.m. Milka Duno also waved off after
a 219 lap.
 Howard go on track at 5:58 and took the green flag just
before the 6 p.m. starter's gun was fired to seal
qualifications. He first attained 223.812, then 223.270,
222.813 and 223.591.
 Former IRL IZOD Indy Car Series driver Bryan Herta
cheered with Saavedra's family before calling his primary
driver at Methodist Hospital. Howard meanwhile pulled
into the pits to a distraught Fisher.
 "I thought this was the best decision given what Paul
(Tracy) was doing," said Fisher - who is to start 29th at
224.434. "It's detrimental to our sponsors and our budget.
We're going to have to come up with a plan for the rest
of the season."
 "When we needed the car to run in the heat, it just
wouldn't run - I was just hanging on," said Tracy, of Las
Vegas. "It cuts deep. It's going to be a long drive home in
the motorhome."
  Andretti Autosports' Tony Kanaan was next in line -
just in case - when the gun fired. He pulled together a
224.072 average for 32nd place after crashing his primary
car Saturday and his backup Sunday morning. Members
from teammate Andretti, Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-
Reay's crews helped cobble together a backup 7-Eleven
No. 11T. 
 A final Carburetion Day test and the FIL Firestone
Freedom 100 race Friday are the last of the pre-500
racing action.

Return-to-Walter Elliott Press Releases