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Castroneves, Danica Earn Shot At 500 Pole

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018

Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was fastest on Bump Day Saturday and will have a shot to win the pole for this year’s 500 on Sunday.

Two of the big stories at the 2018 Indianapolis 500 got a bit bigger on Saturday as  Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick both drove into Sunday’s Fast Nine second day of qualifying and, hence, will have a shot at winning the pole for next Sunday’s race.

Team Penske’s Castroneves posted the top number during Sunday’s Bump Day with a four-lap average speed of 228.919 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet on Bump Day.

Patrick, driving in what appears to be her final big-time auto race, grabbed the ninth and final berth in the Fast Night with an average speed of 227.910 mph in her No. 13 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy.

Also in the Fast Nine on Sunday are Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing, Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske, Will Power of Team Penske, Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing, Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing, Josef Newgarden of Team Penske and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Castroneves needs to be have another good day on Fast Nine Sunday to keep his story big. Asked about Sunday, the native of Brazil said, same strategy.

“Well, I went only half throttle, so tomorrow I’m going to go full throttle,” he joked. “No, certainly we’re going to push it. We’re going to squeeze the heck out of the car, the Pennzoil machine obviously. Myself, Will, Simon and Josef, we’re going to be pushing each other. That’s what makes the team so competitive. Again, we will see what’s going to happen. But for sure we’re going to look at data today and try to find a little more speed. Obviously we’ll put it on the track tomorrow.”

For Patrick, making the Fast Nine in her first trip back to Indy in seven years, provided a bit of relief.

“I have high expectations for doing well here,” she said. “That’s why I was fortunate enough to be able to drive for Ed. They always have great cars, especially here at Indy. They’re always very strong. But to think that I was going to come back and be in the Fast Nine right off the bat. I mean, I’m going to tell you, I was doing 208 at the test the first day and thought, I might not be able to do this. 228 is much better.

“I definitely am relieved. The tough thing is that I feel like there’s so much race running as well as qual sim running. There’s not that much qual sim running, mostly race running. It’s hard to tell exactly where everyone is at. It used to be easier back in the day when the first week was dedicated to qualifying. Got a good feel for it. There’s a bit of a question mark how fast people are, at least from my perspective, also getting familiar with the new combinations and drivers. I didn’t really know.”

Chevrolets dominated the Fast Nine cars as only Bourdais and Dixon had Honda power in their cars.

Carpenter, who came out late an nearly knocked Castroneves from the top of the speed cars, loved the day he had and the day the team he owns had.

“It was tough,” Carpenter said. “The conditions are a lot harder than anything we’ve done (qualifying) sims in. I was smiling because my car is crazy fast. I probably could have been a little more brave and stuck it in there on that fourth lap but I was looking at the three times, trying to do math in my head among other things, and figured I could be a little conservative that last lap and make sure we had a chance for the shootout tomorrow.

“I was hoping it would still be good enough for P1 but I’m happy with that. The conditions are tough for the time of day to put in a time like that. It’s a testament to the team I have behind me. Obviously have to thank Chevrolet for the power this year.”

Bourdais the top Honda driver, said he had more speed to burn.

 “Very conservative, obviously,” Bourdais said. “I kind of owed it to myself, my wife, everybody on the team. A lot of things went through my head, particularly yesterday. We were back in qualifying trim and it was not an easy day, but the guys did a great job and the car was pretty strong. We almost did a repeat of yesterday during the qualifying run today. It was a tough set of circumstances. The conditions were a little tricky. Just before we were supposed to go out it rains. Then it got hot. You go from 80 degrees of track temp to 105, six to eight degrees more of ambient. It was tough to hit the setup right with the conditions that changed so fast, but we had the right amount of downforce. The car was pretty solid, so very happy with the run.”

A total of 35 cars attempted to driver their way into the 33-car field on Saturday.

Big news broke among the three who did not make the field. James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the 2016 pole sitter, failed to make the field. Hinchcliffe took one final shot at driving into the field when he headed out onto the track with 12 minutes left in the session. But he had to pit with a bad vibration before completing a single lap.

“It’s devastating in every way possible,” he said. “Indy’s a cruel mistress some times.”

Also failing to qualify was Pippa Mann.

All 33 cars will attempt to better their starting position on Sunday but only those in the Fast Nine will have a shot at the pole.

Castroneves could be making his final shot at joining legends Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. as four-time winners.

He retired as a full-time IndyCar Series driver after the 2017 season. In 2018, he has been driving a prototype for Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Series.

Patrick, returning to Indy after having left for NASCAR following the 2011 IndyCar season, has announced that she would compete this year in the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and then head out the door.

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Results of first-day qualifying Saturday for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses.

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.2607 (228.919 mph)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:37.4167 (228.692)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:37.6845 (228.304)
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.7604 (228.194)
5. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.8322 (228.090)
6. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:37.8588 (228.052)
7. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.8608 (228.049)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:38.0457 (227.782)
9. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 2:38.1654 (227.610)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:38.1996 (227.561)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:38.2363 (227.508)
12. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.2826 (227.441)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 2:38.5941 (226.995)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:38.6238 (226.952)
15. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 2:38.8702 (226.600)
16. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:38.9409 (226.499)
17. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:39.1837 (226.154)
18. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 2:39.2233 (226.098)
19. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:39.2459 (226.065)
20. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 2:39.3241 (225.955)
21. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:39.3388 (225.934)
22. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 2:39.3561 (225.909)
23. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 2:39.4273 (225.808)
24. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:39.4298 (225.805)
25. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:39.4673 (225.752)
26. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 2:39.4881 (225.722)
27. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:39.4894 (225.720)
28. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 2:39.5275 (225.666)
29. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:39.6362 (225.513)
30. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:39.7114 (225.407)
31. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:39.9953 (225.007)
32. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:40.0897 (224.874)
33. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 2:40.1439 (224.798)

Did Not Qualify:
34. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 2:40.1547 (224.784)
35. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 2:40.4565 (224.360)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018
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