Helio Castroneves out-dueled teammate Ryan Briscoe to claim the pole for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves posted a four-lap average of 224.864 mph in his second run [of three permitted] to overhaul his Team Penske partner and early pace-setter Briscoe, then withstood several challenges throughout the afternoon, including a second run from Briscoe, and strong runs from both 2007 winner Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal.
The biggest surprise of the day came with less than 15 minutes remaining as Alex Lloyd, after struggling during the morning practice session and making several chassis adjustments to his Sam Schmidt Motorsports Honda, returned to pit lane to make a late qualifying run. His four lap average of 222.622 was just enough to claim the 11th and final "first day" qualifying position, knocking out Hideki Mutoh.
In addition to Mutoh, four other drivers were bumped from the first-day field: Paul Tracy, Raphael Matos, Justin Wilson and Ed Carpenter. In addition, two other potential top qualifiers -- Dan Wheldon and promising rookie Robert Doornbos -- had their challenges blunted by crashes prior to making qualifying runs. Neither driver was injured, and Wheldon is expected to make a qualifying attempt in his repaired car during Sunday's second round.
Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to set the next 11 starting positions in the 33-car field, continues tomorrow at 12 noon EDT, with live flag-to-flag television coverage on The Versus Network from 12 -6:30 p.m. EDT.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) pole qualifier; also qualified on the ‘500' pole in 2003 and 2007; Indy 500 race winner in 2001-2002:
"After everything we have been though lately, this is just incredible. I just have to thank my team, Roger [Penske], Tim [Cindric], my family, my girl friend and everyone who has had faith in me. This is what I know. Racing is my life. Our cars have been extremely strong since we arrived here. Today was about finding the ‘edge'. If the car feels too good, then it's not fast enough. We were able to squeeze every bit of speed out of the car today."