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Kanaan Takes Indy 500 Pole

Reigning IRL Champion Tony Kanaan will start the 89th Indianapolis 500 from pole position, after setting the best average speed and accumulated time in today's Pole Day

Kanaan, who finished second in last year's race, was one of the early runners, and after four fault-free laps, produced what would become the best average speed of the day, at 227.566 mph, and a total time of 2:38.196 - just two tenths of a second faster than Sam Hornish Jr, who finished in second.

Hornish took advantage of the new rules for this year's Indianapolis 500, which allow the drivers to make three attempts at qualifying, effectively cancelling one attempt in order to start over again.

After his first four qualifying laps, Hornish was destined for the tenth slot on the grid, but he withdrew and took a second attempt in the afternoon, this time securing second place on the grid.

Final driver on the front row was third fastest Scott Sharp, who initially finished second but was bumped down a spot after Hornish's second attempt.

With 2004 IRL Champion Kanaan, 2001 and 2002 IRL Champion Hornish Jr., and 1996 IRL co-Champion Sharp lined up together on the front row - this will be the first time three IRL Champions line up together at the front, since Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti achieved the same feat in 1991.

The second row of the grid saw some more drama, with pole favourite Danica Patrick having to settle for fifth - and then being moved up to fourth, when Helio Castroneves made a bad gamble on a second attempt. Patrick's fourth position is the best qualifying result for a woman in the race's history, with Lyn St. James having taken sixth position in 1994.

Patrick, who set the fastest lap of the month this morning, with a speed over 229mph, had to compromise her first of four qualifying laps, when her car lost balance in Turn 1, and the rookie Letterman/Rahal driver had to lift off. The 224mph lap effectively diminished her three following laps, and despite setting the fastest lap of qualifying on her final attempt, Patrick ended up with the fifth fastest average.

"I think it's important to keep in perspective at what point I'm at," a disappointed Patrick said after her run had ended. "This is my fifth IndyCar (Series) race. I'm a rookie. I'm pulling the rookie card now. I think it's been a pretty great month so far.

"I shouldn't be mad. I have a job, and I drive for an awesome team, and I have good solid sponsors, so why am I mad? I feel like I wasted a pole car, but, then again, maybe I saved it."

Patrick team boss Bobby Rahal made the decision not to withdraw Patrick's qualifying attempt and try again, instead settling for a second-row start.

"I just don't think we were quite comfortable with the setup," said Rahal, who himself won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and whose driver, Buddy Rice, won the race last year.

"The first lap is key and we couldn't really get to where we needed to be on that first lap so we could go fast. But I don't think we would have been consistent enough, so we had some discussion for the better part of an hour [whether to try again].

"Pretty darn good; fifth on the grid. She had a tremendous week, so we'll put it away and get ready for the race."

Rahal's decision not to take a gamble proved smart when Castroneves' team owner Roger Penske made the opposite decision - and lost out.

Castroneves, who was secure in fourth position after his first attempt, withdrew his run late in the session, but his second attempt proved to be slower overall, and he was demoted to fifth place, bumping Patrick up to fourth.

Final slot on the second row, alongside Patrick and Castroneves, went to Dario Franchitti - the only driver other than Patrick to have posted a lap faster than 229mph this month.

Franchitti had a troubled session, taking advantage of all three attempts. He waved off the first attempt, after an extremely poor second lap. His second attempt was better and he was provisionally 7th. Towards the end of the session he decided to take a gamble on a third attempt, and managed to improve just enough to move him up to 6th place.

The disappointment of the day was rookie Ryan Briscoe, the Australian damaging his car when he made contact with the barriers during his qualifying attempt, but escaping unhurt.

"The car was really fast and the new engine we got today feels very competitive," Briscoe said. "The first lap around the car was pretty neutral and was sort of to be expected. Generally all week we have been producing push on every lap. I turned into one and it felt good, but in mid-the corner I picked up a gust of some wind and it loosened up the rear and around she went."

But the day belonged to Kanaan, who finished third in 2003, second in 2004 - and is hoping to go one better this year.

"We made a couple adjustments to pick up more downforce so we'd have more grip around the track," Kanaan said. "I'm pleased with my run. I think I pushed too hard too soon, but I'm pleased with the run."

2005 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Pole Day - Provisional Results

Lap 1
Lap 2
Lap 3
Lap 4
Total Time Ave.
1 Tony Kanaan  39.504/227.821 39.513/227.771 39.567/227.459 39.610/227.212 2:38.196 227.566
2 Sam Hornish Jr  39.532/227.660 39.537/227.634 39.615/227.182 39.714/226.620 2:38.399 227.273
3 Scott Sharp  39.590/227.325 39.626/227.120 39.604/227.249 39.680/226.811 2:38.502 227.126
4 Danica Patrick  40.014/224.920 39.536/227.638 39.539/227.623 39.497/227.860 2:38.587 227.004
5 Helio Castroneves  39.590/227.330 39.658/226.939 39.711/226.636 39.681/226.804 2:38.641 226.927
6 Dario Franchitti  39.615/227.186 39.654/226.959 39.695/226.727 39.713/226.621 2:38.679 226.873
7 Vitor Meira  39.630/227.096 39.629/227.105 39.681/226.808 39.755/226.384 2:38.696 226.848
8 Kosuke Matsuura  39.704/226.675 39.757/226.375 39.777/226.256 39.773/226.281 2:39.013 226.397
9 Buddy Lazier  39.745/226.439 39.741/226.466 39.772/226.289 39.784/226.218 2:39.043 226.353
10 Tomas Enge  39.803/226.111 39.792/226.175 39.808/226.084 39.813/226.057 2:39.217 226.107
11 Tomas Scheckter  39.788/226.194 39.810/226.073 39.840/225.899 39.830/225.960 2:39.270 226.031
12 Bruno Junqueira  39.868/225.741 39.871/225.727 39.883/225.656 39.877/225.692 2:39.500 225.704
13 Scott Dixon  39.945/225.307 39.957/225.237 39.953/225.265 39.991/225.050 2:39.847 225.215
14 Adrian Fernandez  39.921/225.442 39.974/225.144 40.016/224.905 40.002/224.989 2:39.915 225.120
15 Sebastien Bourdais  39.986/225.075 40.047/224.734 40.021/224.881 39.977/225.128 2:40.032 224.955
16 Dan Wheldon  39.955/225.249 40.016/224.909 40.136/224.235 40.385/222.854 2:40.493 224.308
17 Roger Yasukawa  40.085/224.523 40.138/224.222 40.202/223.865 40.193/223.915 2:40.620 224.131
18 Bryan Herta  40.127/224.287 40.194/223.912 40.176/224.009 40.236/223.680 2:40.734 223.972
19 Darren Manning  40.163/224.082 40.177/224.009 40.220/223.769 40.194/223.911 2:40.755 223.943
20 Richie Hearn  40.385/222.851 40.450/222.496 40.425/222.631 40.386/222.850 2:41.647 222.707
21 Jeff Bucknum  40.652/221.388 40.606/221.639 40.637/221.473 40.616/221.584 2:42.512 221.521
22 Alex Barron  40.702/221.118 40.694/221.162 40.697/221.144 40.762/220.789 2:42.856 221.053

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