Castroneves on top

Helio Castroneves, who has taken a liking to the track his boss helped to resurrect, was clocked Saturday at 20.1080 seconds, giving him the pole position for Firestone Indy 225, the final race at Nazareth Speedway. The one-mile tri-oval, which has existed in several forms since 1966, is being closed to all but club racing following Sunday's race

Castroneves on top

"I'm going to miss this place," said Castroneves, who won the IRL IndyCar Series race last year at Nazareth. "They seem to take away all of the places I like - St. Louis, Nazareth. Hopefully they'll never take away Indianapolis. It's one of those things. You have to move on."

NASCAR's track ownership arm, International Speedway Corporation, made the decision earlier this year to close the historic track, which was born in 1966 as a dirt track to go with an existing half-mile dirt oval on the same property. In 1986, Roger Penske, Castroneves' car owner, revived then-dormant Nazareth with paving and grandstands. When Penske Motorsports Inc. merged with ISC in 1993, the track came under control of ISC.

Perhaps fitting, then, that Marlboro Team Penske drivers claimed the front row for Sunday's race. Sam Hornish Jr. posted the second-best lap of the qualifying session, 20.1436 seconds (167.100 mph).

"This is an extra special race, being the last race at Nazareth," Hornish said. "It's got a lot of history with Indy-style racing. Plus it's the 100th race in the IRL. I want to win every race, but this one will mean a little more to whoever takes the win."

The front-row performance by Penske's drivers also was a reprieve for Toyota, which hasn't won a pole position since Castroneves started first at Richmond in June. Andretti Green Racing team-mates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti will start on the second row in their Honda-powered Dallaras.

Toyota also captured the fifth starting position, with Target Chip Ganassi's Darren Manning, but Honda took the rest of the top 10. Andretti Green put all four of its cars in the first four rows, with Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon locking down the seventh and eighth positions.

The fastest Chevrolet-powered qualifier was Tomas Scheckter, at 11th. He then had the fastest lap in full race trim during happy hour, followed by Wheldon and Castroneves.

Ed Carpenter crashed during Saturday morning's practice session. He did not qualify and will start 22nd Sunday, but the Red Bull Cheever Racing crew did get his car back on the track in time for Saturday's happy-hour session.

The race is considered a home event for both Andretti Green, whose co-owner Michael Andretti lives in Nazareth, and Penske Racing, which is based in nearby Reading, Pa.

"I came here one day with Roger one day to take a look at the place," said former Penske driver Rick Mears, now an advisor for the team. "It was nothing but a bunch of weeds growing up with a concrete wall around it. To see the change that was made, with Roger building the place and all of the good races we've had ... it's going to be a shame."

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