I will admit that I was a bit skeptical when the IZOD IndyCar series decided that they were going to switch up the qualifying events for the Indianapolis 500. However, I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised with today’s proceedings. Helio Castroneves as well probably has no gripes as he has taken his fourth pole position for the greatest spectacle in racing.
The day would start before the qualifying even began as Takumo Sato would crash his Lotus sponsored KV Racing technology car. Sato would be taken to Methodist complaining of pain in his upper back. He would be released with no injury. Will Power would also set the fastest speed (227.971mph) of the month as the conditions would be prime in the early hours with cool temperatures and cloud cover. A far cry from the 80’s and sunshine that was forecasted but never fear…the track would heat up and the sun would be blazing during the afternoon.
The early sessions would see 226mph as the bar set by Alex Tagliani. The speed would hold for most of the day as the likes of Mario Moraes and Tony Kanaan would reach out and touch the safer barrier. Not to be outdone, Helio Castroneves would pull his P2 speed off the board in an attempt to get P1. One may ask themselves why? As long as you are in the top 9 you get into the pole shootout right? Well as we discussed on episode 39 of the podcast, this year your pit selection is based off of your pre shooutout times. As was mentioned on the coverage, Castroneves had transmission problems last year and the first pit box really saved his tale in regards to track position. So it was a gamble worth taking in Penske’s eyes and who questions the master of Indy? Castroneves would put a blinding 226.7 to secure the first spot heading into the pole shootout. The second reason this was important was because Helio would now have the power to pick when he completed his pole shootout run. Would he just bite the bullet and go first or wait for the last spot in favor of maybe having a cooler track?
Helio would take the first run with his selection and he unleashed on the other competitors a time that was not to be beaten. His efforts in the Penske would see him go 227.971mph. The Penske boys would really have it dialed in as all three car would fill the top 5. In fact, they would take 1st, 2nd, and 4th. Chip Ganassi would struggle all day to match the pace of his Penske rivlas. Franchitti would take the third position with Scott Dixon taking sixth right next to Alex Tagliani’s FAZZT entry. Tagliani’s efforts must be praised as he was in the hospital earlier this week with bronchitis. Last year the Canadian did not make the show but took Bruno Junqueira’s car and started 33rd. An excellent job for the new team and a promising starting position come race day.
Graham Rahal would put together a great run for his father’s Rahal Letterman Racing outfit. The young American just had the deal put together a couple weeks ago when it was determined that he would not have a ride in time. RLR has been out of IZOD IndyCar racing since last year’s 500 mile race and will start an impressive seventh place. Hideki Mutoh would also have an impressive run and will be joined by Ed Carpenter in his Vision/Panther entry. Townsend Bell also put together a great run and will be locked in at the 10th position. Brilliant result for a guy who always rises to the occasion for this great race.
All in all the spectacle that was pole day has garnered very positive reviews from fans and teams alike. There was excitement all day long and some very impressive speeds given the conditions. All in all I think it was a positive change for the series and a move in the right direction to getting the event back to past glory. I had numerous tweet reports from the track telling me that the attendance was as high as it has been since the split! Stay tuned as tomorrow is bump day and the whole OP crew will be at the track. Look for tweets live from the speedway as we still have some very quick cars to qualify. Kanaan and Moraes are two of the names as well as Sato.