While Penske Racing driver Will Power led Thursday’s session, it was his teammate Helio Castroneves taking the top spot today with a speed of 228.611mph on the day before pole qualifying.
“Anything is possible,” Castroneves said. “Right now Shell V-Power is working really well in not only the race setup but also the qualifying setup. Qualifying tomorrow will be very tight. I can see that my teammates will be strong ones, and there are other guys doing fast times out there, too. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Fast Nine. I think we will see speeds in the 228 range tomorrow. It is going to be similar weather as today, but if it is a little bit humid, we may lose a little bit of power. I think everybody has something more.
“Today was a fast Friday. Everybody started laying out the wings and going fast. I’m very happy with my boys with the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car. It was very smooth, especially in the race trim, so I was very happy. We did a lot of laps today, and I wanted to make sure I was happy with the race car. It will probably be the last chance before we go into the race to run in those kinds of conditions. All of my boys were on the same page. As soon as we felt happy with the race trim, race setup, we decided to change and go for it. We had some moments out there. I’ve got to keep moving forward and have a good lap out there tomorrow and have a good day for the entire Team Penske.”
If Castroneves can pull off the pole, it’d be his third Indianapolis 500 pole in a row.
“Just starting pole position would mean a lot,” he said.” This place is fantastic. It’s awesome and tough. It would be great. Records are made to be broke, so I’m not going to focus on that. I’m going to focus on what I need to make it work so we can put the Shell V-Power in the number one spot.”
Alex Tagliani kept up in the charts as he was second fastest at 228.327mph.
“Our team continues to rise every weekend,” Tagliani said. “When we are in the window when we roll off the truck, we have a great group of people who make it easy to fine-tune the car. Being a one-car team, when we are off the window, it’s not easy, but this week, the car has been strong. With a few aerodynamic changes from last year, the car has been very consistent. It’s been nice just to fine-tune and not reinvent the wheel on our setup. I need to take my hat off to the guys. They have been very meticulous in preparing the car and on a track with high speed like this, it’s crucial. As a driver, you need to be comfortable in the car, and you need to drive it well, but you need to have the car, but if you don’t there’s nothing you can do.”
Tagliani feels that he has a little bit left to give Castroneves a run for his money.
“We have a couple of things left,” he said. “I think we were conservative this afternoon. We made some changes on the car without pushing the limits aerodynamically. I think it’s going be very difficult to do a 228.3 (mph), but it will have to be up there for a one lap go. It’s all about how consistent you can be and what’s your draw. We feel that we are strong, but on the charts, there are a lot of cars that are strong. It’s very difficult to have a good read. We ran very few laps this week, and we tried to run by ourselves to evaluate the right gearing and right downforce and make the right call on ride heights and all of that. I think we can go to bed tonight feeling we have a strong car, but the Ganassis and Penskes look tough. Hopefully when we pull everything out that we think we can, we’ll be right there with them.”
Scott Dixon, meanwhile, was third (228.181) while Castroneves’ teammate Briscoe was fourth at 228.029.
“We worked a lot on race setup, and we concentrated the last few hours today on speed,” Dixon said. “I think we’re looking good for tomorrow, and you should see the usual suspects coming to the top soon.”
“Today was a good day for the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske crew,” Briscoe said. “We completed a lot of laps. We mostly ran race setups, which we needed after all the time we lost earlier in the week. We trimmed out the car at the end of the day and got good speed out of the car, but we haven’t found the limit yet. I’m happy where we finished the day, and we’re excited about tomorrow. It should be a really good day on Saturday for Team Penske.”
Bertrand Baguette rounded out the top five with a speed of 228.028mph.
Simona de Silvestro was at the track on hand after her accident yesterday, though has not been cleared to drive after suffering second-degree burns on her right hand and superficial burns on her left hand.
“Something broke on the rear suspension, and when that happens, you’re just a passenger,” she said. “You can’t really do anything about it, especially when you’re going about 220 mph. I hit the wall and it took forever to land, it seemed, and then it started getting pretty hot out there (because of flames). It was pretty shocking, actually, especially to be on fire. It’s kind of weird because the fuel is splashing on you and you don’t really know what to do. A lot of things go through your head, but you want to get out of the car as quickly as possible. Everyone is working hard to get me back in the car, and I think it’s important for me to get back in the car quickly.
“It just shows how safe the car is. I don’t think a crash like that in any other car I would be standing here. When I got out of the car, I couldn’t believe it because it was so crazy being along for the ride and being on fire – again. I was pretty shocked, but it was nice to be standing. I don’t think I was a good patient in the infield medical center because I was in a lot of pain and I was screaming for water to cool my hands down. They took good care of me and then we went to the hospital, where they said it was second-degree burns. We took the bandages off (this morning) and they were really blistered, and tonight we’re going to check them again and see what they say. They don’t look pretty, so I don’t want to look. I can say I’m pretty lucky to be here.
“It is my goal to get back in the car as quickly as I can. It will be (INDYCAR’s medical team) decision and also mine because it’s pretty shocking. I can move my hands, but it is pretty tight because it pulls the skin. We’ll get some gloves that can fit.”
The day will start tomorrow with a brief practice from 8a.m.-10a.m., followed by qualifying at 11a.m.
During qualifying tomorrow, the top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available during the traditional four-lap attempts from 11 a.m.-4p.m. with each car having up to three attempts and bumping will begin when the 24 spots are filled. The times from the top nine drivers will be erased at 4pm, though those drivers are guaranteed to start no worse than ninth. Those nine drivers, dubbed the “Fast Nine”, will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt from 4:30-6pm to set their exact starting spot on the grid.
On May 22nd, positions 25-33 will be available on Armed Forces/Bump Day as bumping will begin once 33 cars are qualified.