Penske leads the CART troops in qualifying

The last time team owner Roger Penske stood at the north end of pit lane to watch one of his cars attempt to make the field for the Indianapolis 500, it was 1994.

Penske leads the CART troops in qualifying

That year, both his cars - driven by Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi - missed the race, putting an indelible tarnish on the record of the winningest team in Indianapolis 500 history with 10 victories.

Penske was back for the first time since that fateful day during Indy 500 pole qualifications on Saturday and this time the news was much better for the CART team owner. Both his drivers qualified safely in the field for the May 27 85th Indianapolis 500.

"I spent a lot of time down there in that pit area the last time I was here and I didn't get the job done," Penske said.

Gil de Ferran, the defending CART champion, qualified for the middle of the front row after running a four-lap average of 224.405 miles per hour in a Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora. Helio Castroneves qualified for the middle of the fourth row at 224.142 mph.

"I'm hoping that that speed will put us in the show, which will be a nice thing for me," de Ferran said after his qualification attempt had put him on the pole before Scott Sharp knocked him off. "I had a tough time early today getting up to speed because it was a bit colder. There was a tailwind in the middle of Turn 1, and it was more difficult, but I think it is early in the day. You're always a little anxious before you get in the car.

"My first job was to get it up to speed. At least we qualified, hopefully good enough to keep us in the field. We left a little on the table in the last couple of laps, but it was a good, solid run. I knew what I had to do. It's been a great week for us."

De Ferran has competed in one previous Indianapolis 500 in 1995, but he didn't make it through the first turn after he was involved in the infamous Stan Fox crash. Castroneves will compete in his first Indy 500 on May 27.

"I think it was a good run, a little disappointing," Castroneves said. "I was flat out and expected to go faster, but it wasn't the case. It's the best we had. I had a little wiggle in Turn 1. I asked, 'Should we wave off?' They said no way; I only have one chance.

"This track is amazing. Four corners look the same, but they are completely different."

De Ferran and Castroneves will work on their race day set-up on Sunday during practice, but will depart at the end of the day for a flight to Japan on Monday morning for the CART Twin-Ring Motegi event.

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