INDIANAPOLIS - Roger Penske made the right call yesterday, and Helio Castroneves rewarded his car owner with another Indianapolis 500 pole.
Penske, whose elite team has won 14 poles and 14 races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - both records - watched and waited while all the other contenders for the top qualifying spot in the May 27 race made early qualifying runs.
Dario Franchitti, one of five entries for Andretti Green Racing, posted a four-lap, 10-mile average of 227.191 m.p.h. during an early flurry of qualifying and then stood by for five hours before two-time Indy winner Castroneves finally knocked him off the top spot in the final five minutes of the first of four days of time trials, earning his second Indy pole.
Under Indy's new qualifying procedure, each driver was allowed up to three chances to qualify on the opening day.
The session started at noon, and Penske, waiting for the lower temperatures of late afternoon, finally sent Castroneves out for a qualifying run just after 4 p.m.
His 224.988 was good enough for fourth at the time, but it wasn't even close to knocking Franchitti off the top spot.
Sam Hornish Jr., the other Penske Racing driver and last year's pole and race winner, tried twice, but finished well short of the pole at 225.109.
That's the way it stayed until Castroneves, whose team made a gear change in the interim, took to the track again, withdrawing his earlier speed.
There was no question the second time, with four laps ranging from 225.652 to 225.920 adding up to an average of 225.817 and the top spot.
But it wasn't over yet.
Tony Kanaan, another former Indy pole winner, withdrew an earlier speed of 224.618 and drove onto the 2.5-mile oval just before the final gun sounded.
His first three laps were just fast enough to relegate Castroneves to second place, but the final lap slipped to 225.358 and his overall average of 225.757 was only good enough to shove Franchitti to the outside of the front row.
Only 11 drivers locked in starting spots yesterday, with 11 more to be determined today, 11 more Saturday and then a final session to allow for the possibility of bumping next Sunday.
Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon (225.122) and Dan Wheldon (224.641) were fourth and fifth, repectively, after having the fastest cars in practice all week.
The third row is made up of Ryan Briscoe at 224.410, Danica Patrick at 224.076 and Marco Andretti at 223.299, with Tomas Scheckter on the outside of the fourth row at 222.877 and Michael Andretti in the 11th and final first-day spot at 222.789.
DARLINGTON, S.C. - Nextel Cup's Dodge Avenger 500 was postponed by a heavy rainstorm and will be run at 1 this afternoon. Fox29 will televise the event.
The scheduled two days of testing at Dover International Speedway have been cut to one day of testing on Tuesday.