INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 20, 2011) – Helio Castroneves laid down a marker of 228.611 mph that roused the sun-soaked crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and raised a few competitors’ eyebrows on Fast Friday, the six-hour session in which 39 drivers prepared for Pole Day by recording 2,254 laps on the 2.5-mile oval.
Alex Tagliani (228.327) remained strong in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, while Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car was third (228.181) on the speed chart. Ryan Briscoe, driving the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske car, was fourth (228.029) and Bertrand Baguette cracked the top five (228.028) in the No. 30 RACB/Aspria Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Special.
Eight different teams were represented in the top 10 of the speed chart, and the field was separated by 1.0729 seconds.
The top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available through traditional four-lap attempts from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Each car will have up to three attempts, and bumping begins when the 24 spots are filled. The times of the top nine drivers from this first segment of qualifying will be erased at 4 p.m., with all of those competitors guaranteed to start no worse than ninth.
From 4:30-6 p.m. the “Fast Nine” will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt and additional/optional attempts are available if time permits. Each driver’s best run will set their position on the starting grid.
Indy qualifications also have an impact on the championship, with 15 points awarded to the pole sitter through three points for starting 25th-33rd. Only the PEAK Performance Pole Award winner in the other 16 IZOD IndyCar Series races receives the bonus (one point).
Castroneves won the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone in 2010 with a four-lap average speed of 227.970 mph. Sebastian Saavedra (223.634) was the slowest of the 33 starters, and the field average was 224.974.
Positions 25-33 are available on Armed Forces Day/Bump Day (May 22). Bumping begins once 33 cars have qualified.
FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF PRACTICE:
Fastest rookie: #4 JR Hildebrand, 14th, 226.939