Castroneves Captures First Kentucky Speedway IRL Indy Car Series Pole Award
Penske Racing IRL IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves will lead a 19-car field to the start of the "Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Secret" tomorrow at 3:45 p.m., at Kentucky Speedway after reeling off a pole-award-winning 218.328-mph (24.4037 seconds) lap in afternoon qualifying.
Castroneves took his first career Kentucky Speedway pole award, his third straight and sixth of the season. The series championship leader owns an eight-point advantage over teammate and 2003 Kentucky Speedway pole and race winner Sam Hornish, Jr., who will share the front row after turning in a 218.307-mph (24.4060 seconds) qualifying run.
"The lap was just enough," said Castroneves, who has taken three fifth-place finishes at Kentucky Speedway through four career starts. "There was a little bit of understeer on my lap, which I didn't expect, but at the end of the day, it was very good. Winning the pole award doesn't mean much on these kinds of ovals, but right now, we'll enjoy the moment. I've been so close to winning here so many years. Maybe this year will be our year."
Castroneves will look to capture his second straight win and fifth of the season tomorrow. He owns a total of six top-five and nine top-10 finishes through 11 races this season.
Defending series champion and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dan Wheldon, who charted third-place finishes at Kentucky Speedway in 2005 and 2004, qualified third with a 217.003-mph (24.5526 seconds) lap and will start opposite Andretti Green pilot Tony Kanaan, who turned his best lap at 216.766-mph (24.5795 seconds).
IRL Indy Pro Series driver Jonathan Klein nailed down his first career Kentucky Speedway pole position and the first of his series career earlier in the day by generating a quick 189.392-mph (28.1321 seconds) lap. He will lead a 16-car "97.5 WAMZ-FM 100" field to the starting line at 12:30 p.m., tomorrow.
The Andretti Green Racing developmental driver will attempt to become the fourth of five Kentucky Speedway series pole sitters to take a victory at the track. He will start the race third in the series standings and 31 points off Jay Howard's leading pace.
Klein will seek his first career win when the green flag drops tomorrow. He has scored six top-five and seven top-10 finishes through eight starts this season, including three consecutive third-place runs. He will start on the front row for the third time this season.
"The car was fantastic. When it comes down to qualifying, it comes down to two hot laps," Klein said. "You get in and hang on. That's what I did. The crew did a fantastic job.
"As you've seen in the past last few races, it's not always the pole sitter who wins the race. Anything can happen and I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch. I'm pretty confident. I know the car will be good."
Jay Howard qualified third with a top 188.824-mph (28.2167 seconds) lap and will share the second row with defending race champion and two-time Kentucky Speedway series pole winner Travis Gregg of Camden, Ohio near Cincinnati. The Miami University graduate turned in his top qualifying effort at 187.683 mph (28.3883 seconds) and will make his third series start of the season tomorrow.
Tickets for both races are still available and can be purchased at the track main entrance at Gate 16 beginning at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Speedway gates will open at 10:30 a.m.
Race grand marshal, National Football League Hall of Fame member and former Cincinnati Bengal Anthony Munoz will add to the day's festivities along with country music group Hot Apple Pie which will perform a postrace concert.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
~ Kentucky Speedway ~