By Corey Elliot
Familiar names, faster speeds and plenty of story lines await Hoosiers who plan on making it out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Pole Day.
And Indycar fans have two of the most popular names in Indy 500 history to thank for what should undoubtedly be one of the more exciting pole days in recent history.
Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves are each back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and they have the same goal in mind: put the cherry on top of an incredible career by winning the Indianapolis 500. For both drivers, a win next weekend means history. Castroneves is a three-time winner of the Indy 500. A win on May 27th would make him just the fourth driver all-time to win four Indianapolis 500 mile races. For Patrick – who is the only woman to ever lead laps in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and has finishes of fourth and third – it’s simple: a win next Sunday makes her the first woman to ever win the Indianapolis 500.
On Saturday, Castroneves qualified his No.3 Penske Racing Pennzoil machine atop the tentative grid with a four-lap average of 228.919. The former full-time Indycar driver returned to Indianapolis this year without a full-time ride for the first time in his career. Castroneves is driving full-time for Penske Racing in a sport car series this season instead of the Verizon Indycar Series.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” Castroneves said. “Coming here, it’s just feeling like coming back home. I know what it takes and I know what my team needs to do. It’s tough (to run the race) when you’re not doing the whole season, but I’m very, very fortunate to be doing the main, special race, which is the Indy 500.”
Danica Patrick returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy Car for the first time since 2011. Patrick will bring her historical career to a close with the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday in her bright green No.13 Go Daddy machine for Ed Carpenter Racing. Patrick rounded out the top nine with a four-lap average of 227.610.
Castroneves is looking for his fifth pole award, while Patrick would be the first woman to ever start from the pole position in the Indy 500.
“Overall, it’s good to be back at Indy in an Indy Car. Everyone’s been super nice and, you know, it has felt like coming home. Ed Carpenter’s team has been fantastic. That’s all I can say. They’ve given me the equipment that I need,” Patrick said. “I want to be in the running for the pole (on Sunday). The car is fast enough.”
Track activity kicks off with practice at noon before drivers who qualified 10 through 33 re-qualify at 2:45 p.m., setting 24 of the 33 position on the grid for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. At 5 p.m., Castroneves, Patrick and the remaining seven qualifiers in the Fast Nine will have 45 minutes to try and grab the pole position, and it’s expected that we could see speeds of 230 mph.
Patrick’s car owner, Ed Carpenter, had the second-fastest qualifying run on Saturday with a four-lap average of 228.692. Carpenter put all three of his cars in the Fast Nine. Spencer Pigot, who drives the No.21 ride for Carpenter, logged the sixth fastest four-lap average of 228.062. In fact, seven of the Fast Nine drivers are made up of Penske Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing Machines. Penske Drivers Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and defending Verizon Indycar Series champion Josef Newgarden will try to spoil Castroneves run for the pole award.
“The goal is to be in the top spot,” Castroneves said. “I was very close to (winning my fourth 500) last year, but close is not enough. We’ve got to keep knocking on the door, and hopefully it will be this year.”
Here is a look at the track activity planned for today:
12:00pm – 12:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Practice (Positions 10-33)
1:15pm – 02:00pm – Indianapolis 500 Practice (Fast 9)
2:45pm – 04:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Positions 10-33)
5:00pm – 05:45pm – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Fast 9)
5:45pm – Verizon P1 Award Ceremony
6:00pm – Public Gates Close