Friday, May 20, 2011

Helio Quickest at Indy's Fast Friday - Pole Day Looms

Helio Castroneves is all smiles after topping
the timesheets at Indy on Fast Friday

Helio Castroneves marked himself as the favorite once again to win pole position for the Indianapolis 500 after besting all his competition today in the final full day of practice known as Fast Friday. A solid six hours of green light time greeted the teams today under warm and sunny skies in what was definitely a change of pace from weather most of the rest of this week of practice. Every available team took advantage of today's track time as more than 2200 laps were run all told, with 39 cars getting on track. The only absentee was Simona DeSilvestro who has not yet been medically cleared to drive due to the burns she suffered on her hands in Thursday's wild practice crash. Roger Penske got all three of his drivers in the top seven today, and if anyone knows how to find speed on Pole Day at Indy, it is Helio and his Penske team. I would not bet against him, but the race for the pole will be fiercely contested tomorrow as multiple drivers topped 228, there was another larger group over 227, and there were at least 33 over 225. My prediction on Twitter earlier today of a pole speed in the high 227's and a bump speed above 224 may have to be revised upward.  It should be quite a show and everyone needs to pray for some Tony Hulman weather for Saturday.

Rounding out the top 10 today were Alex Tagliani who continues to impress, Target Ganassi's Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe in the IZOD colors, Bertrand Baguette (yes!), Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Townsend Bell, Oriol Servia and Dan Wheldon. Baguette was the biggest surprise of the bunch while Bell, Carpenter and Servia continue to show consistent pace. Wheldon is doing a whale of a job for Bryan Herta's small team by Sam Schmidt Motorsports must get the gold ring for the largest team improvement with Tags and Townsend giving the usual duo of Penske and Ganassi a run for their money. We'll see if someone can outright steal the cash tomorrow from Helio as once it hits 4:30 and the day's top nine get three more chances to go for the pole Saturday, it could really be spectacular. Let's hope everyone gets to Bump Day on Sunday safely. See you at the track. Today's photo slideshow follows.

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