Castroneves on Mid-Ohio pole

Helio Castroneves surprised himself to take pole position for the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio

Castroneves on Mid-Ohio pole

With the championship being fought seemingly between Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon, Castroneves was the final qualifier - and only Penske - for the Firestone Top Six, and didn't hold out much hope for the final session.

"We have had a rough weekend," he said before the shoot-out. "It's disappointing, but we are trying hard. We are still digging, but at least we made it this far."

Fifteen minutes later, it was an emotional Castroneves accepting the pole award, having beaten all four Andretti Green cars, and championship candidate Scott Dixon.

"This team has never let me down," Castroneves said. "It's been tough, and we struggled to make the top six. We made some changes, but the car was very loose. I came on the radio and said 'This hasn't worked! The car is asking to pit!' But the team told me to just go for it. They gave me the green flag. That lap was for them, and that's why I'm emotional."

Starting alongside the Brazilian will be Danica Patrick, who was happy with her performance, but believes there was still more. "It's by far the best I've done on a road course," she said. "It feels so good.

"I've never talked about a car and the way it is as much as I have here at AGR, and it works. The teamwork and understanding is great, and it helps that people listen, trust and believe in me, and that I can do the job. I guess I'm proud of myself today."

Championship contenders Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon ended up fifth and sixth in the final shootout, and neither was happy about it. Franchitti opted to sit out the first five minutes of the session to see how fast his rivals would go. But, when the time came, his two fast laps weren't enough, the only bonus was that he is ahead of Dixon. But both were frustrated.

"This is not quite what we had hoped to do in the Firestone Fast Six," said Dixon. "We'll have our work cut out for us in the race. It's been a bit of a struggle so far this weekend but you never know what can happen. The key will be trying to get to the front or simply in front of Dario (Franchitti). We can't let too many points slip through our fingers this weekend."

Ryan Hunter-Reay was also impressive. In for Jeff Simmons at Rahal Letterman, and with hardly any seat time, he qualified in 10th spot.

Pos  Driver              Time
 1.  Helio Castroneves   121.620
 2.  Danica Patrick      121.098 
 3.  Tony Kanaan         121.008 
 4.  Marco Andretti      120.618 
 5.  Dario Franchitti    120.599 
 6.  Scott Dixon         120.473 
 7.  Sam Hornish Jr.     118.895 
 8.  Darren Manning      118.323 
 9.  Buddy Rice          118.134 
10.  Ryan Hunter-Reay    118.024 
11.  Dan Wheldon         117.422 
12.  Tomas Scheckter     117.388 
13.  Kosuke Matsuura     116.785 
14.  A.J. Foyt IV        116.456 
15.  Scott Sharp         115.743 
16.  Ed Carpenter        114.900 
17.  Sarah Fisher        114.394 
18.  Vitor Meira         no speed 
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