IndyCar – Helio on Pole for Indy 500

helioThe weather today was certainly changeable. Winds varied from strong to non-existent. The sun kept peeking through the clouds and the relative humidity was all over the place. All of which made car setup a nightmare today for the drivers and engineers.

Due to the strange weather conditions, many potential first day qualifiers opted to forgo their pill draw position in favor of waiting for better conditions. But as the day wore on, ideal qualifying conditions did not become readily apparent. Helio Castroneves ended up making his pole run in the middle of the day, pushing teammate Ryan Briscoe off the pole. Ryan tried to retake the position at the end of the day during happy hour, but was barely able to hold on to his 2nd spot.

In the end though, almost all of the Ganassi / Penske / Andretti entries, along with their extended family (Power and Lloyd) were able to secure their spot in the front 11. Hideki Mutoh was bumped at the last minute by Alex Lloyd, but he was the only member of the elite teams that failed to qualify today. Also getting bumped from the top 11 were Paul Tracy, Raphael Matos and Ed Carpenter.

Graham Rahal qualified a remarkable 4th place for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. Graham put his car in the show early, but later withdrew it due to an undisclosed setup situation that they did not want to have to live with during the race. (We are speculating that it was a gearing issue) So, instead they opted to make the setup change and requalify the car. This turned out to be a good decision, since they improved his start position. But it also could have been catastrophic.

Teammate Robert Doornbos made heavy contact with the wall on fast Friday and the car was sent back to Chicago (where NHLR’s shop is located) for repair. He got into their only backup car for practice this morning and threw that one into the wall as well. The team has no additional backup chassis, so Robert was not able to make an attempt today, nor will he be able to try tomorrow. This had to be devastating for the team, since they have improved so much on the ovals. Robert was very likely to also qualify today.

Another likely first day qualifier made contact with the wall during practice this morning. Dan Wheldon sat around all day waiting for his team to hopefully put his car back together, but they were unable to get it out in time to put any practice runs on it before happy hour got into full swing.

Franchitti, Dixon and Briscoe all withdrew their times and took another crack at pole, but were unable to best Helio’s time.

1 Helio Castroneves 224.864
2 Ryan Briscoe 224.083
3 Dario Franchitti 224.010
4 Graham Rahal 223.954
5 Scott Dixon 223.867
6 Tony Kanaan 223.612
7 Mario Moraes 223.331
8 Marco Andretti 223.114
9 Will Power 223.028
10 Danica Patrick 222.882
11 Alex Lloyd 222.622

Qualifying will resume tomorrow from noon to 6pm eastern time on Versus. Video streaming of morning practice will be available on from 10:15 to 11:15 am eastern. Below is the pill draw order for qualifying. Tomorrow is predicted to be mostly sunny with a high of 70F and a 20% chance of rain.

67 Sarah Fisher
41 A.J. Foyt IV
43 John Andretti
24 Mike Conway
23 Milka Duno
14 Vitor Meira
44 Davey Hamilton
4 Dan Wheldon
15 Paul Tracy
34T Alex Tagliani
4T Dan Wheldon
21T Ryan Hunter-Reay
36 TBA
98 Stanton Barrett
20 Ed Carpenter
91 Buddy Lazier
20T Ed Carpenter
18 Justin Wilson
14T Vitor Meira
27 Hideki Mutoh
34 Alex Tagliani
16 Scott Sharp
21 Ryan Hunter-Reay
13 E.J. Viso
48 TBA
2T Raphael Matos
2 Raphael Matos

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