Saturday, May 12, 2007

Indy 500: Another Penske Pole; IRL Wins with Three Tries Format

Indianapolis is the mother of all race tracks and today she showed just how fickle she could be. Helio Castroneves drove a dagger through the heart of the competition today and snatched pole position in the final 15 minutes of Pole Day qualifying under the Indy Racing League's "three tries per car per day" format. The IRL must be riding high this evening as the format got its first true test after two consecutive years where weather prevented its use.

On a cloudless warm day with a tailwind on the frontstretch, Roger Penske's machine stole the pole position from the dominant team for the week: Ganassi Racing. I am certain the Chipster is not a happy camper tonight. I thought all morning that Dixon and Wheldon were sandbagging as whatever speed they had during the week was seemingly lost overnight. The Indy oval was sun baked and after more than two days of solid running, there was lots of rubber on the track, and conditions were dramatically different than Friday May 11th. As usual the gamblers and the more experienced teams stepped to the forefront and adapted as Penske and Andretti Green Racing went toe-to-toe all day. Dario Franchitti waited all afternoon to see if anyone would knock him off the pole, and Michael Andretti sweated out the last hour and a half on the 11th position bubble.

Sam Hornish had two tries and was running a pole winning speed but bobbles in each run cost him. Then Helio took another swing and was his normal emotional self after taking his second Indy pole. Franchitti's teammate Tony Kanaan almost knocked Helio off the pole in the last 5 minutes but had to settle for the middle of the front row, pushing Dario to the outside.

It was an awesome day at IMS with multiple bumps for the 11th position, and a thrilling duel for the pole among several drivers.

And how about that Ryan Briscoe and the Penske "junior" team? Didn't I tell you?

The best pole day in years in my opinion, and the first one since 2001 not effected by Mother Nature. This will be hard to top. Tomorrow we do it again for the next 11 positions and then get to rest our feet for a couple of days. Let's hope the traditional bump day next Sunday is half as exciting as today has been. See you in Turn 2!

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