[media-credit name=”iowacorn.org” align=”alignright” width=”168″][/media-credit]NEWTON, Iowa (June 22, 2012) – Helio Castroneves secured a front row start for Saturday’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 by leading Team Penske in a unique new heat race format.
Castroneves finished second in Friday’s third and final heat race, which consisted of the fastest-eight drivers from the second practice session and determined the starting order for the first four rows of Saturday’s race around the .875-mile oval. Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe finished fifth, while Will Power finished sixth in Friday’s final heat race and they will occupy the third row on tomorrow night’s starting grid.
Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, started third in the heat race but quickly moved his No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet past Marco Andretti for second place. Castroneves finished the 30-lap race 1.4671 seconds behind heat race winner and Saturday’s polesitter Dario Franchitti.
“At the end of the day, I’m glad (INDYCAR) tried something different (for qualifying),” said Castroneves said. “The Penske Truck Rental car is starting on the front row and that’s what I care about.”
Briscoe, who has never finished outside the top-10 in four previous starts at Iowa, began the third heat race in the fifth position and he finished fifth in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The Long Beach and Indianapolis 500 pole winner finished 6.5813 seconds behind the leader.
“The heat race was definitely a sprint race and I think we were able to learn some things about how the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish (car) will perform in tomorrow’s race,” said Briscoe. “I felt like I had a good car and a couple lanes opened up for some good racing. It should be a fun race tomorrow, we are starting fifth and hopefully we’ll have a good race.”
Power, who continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings, finished sixth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Saturday will mark the sixth time in nine races in 2012 that Power will start among the top six.
“These heat races were a good chance for the Verizon Team Penske crew to get some racing under our belts and have a better understanding of what to expect during the race,” said Power. “I like the way the car feels and we are ready for a good performance in the race tomorrow.”
The unique heat format, used for the first time at Iowa Speedway, placed the drivers in heat races according to their lap times from Friday’s second practice session.
“I like it, but I don’t love it,” said Castroneves. “Honestly, it was a little bit more risky in the practice session because we had to take more chances then to make sure we got into the final heat race. Other than that, it was OK. For something being used for the first time, it was positive.”
Taped coverage of the heat races will be shown Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network while live coverage of the 250-lap race is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
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