Helio Castroneves earned the fourth Indianapolis 500 pole of his career with a commanding performance in the new pole shootout at the end of today's qualifying session.
Under the revised 2010 system, the top nine drivers from the first five hours of Pole Day qualifying went into a 90-minute battle for pole position. Penske driver Castroneves opted to run first, and set a stunning average speed of 227.971mph. None of his eight rivals for the top spot could get within 1mph of that mark on their initial runs, and Castroneves' total four-lap time was nearly one second clear of his pursuers.
That margin was eroded, but no one could beat Castroneves, who secured the pole position for a second straight year. He went almost as quickly on the first three laps of a second run, before waving it off as his pole was clearly secure. The new rules make pole even more valuable – with Castroneves earning 15 points and $175,000 for his efforts today.
Penske will fill three of the top four positions on the grid, with only Ganassi's Dario Franchitti preventing a front row sweep for Roger Penske's squad. Franchitti was provisionally second for a while, but was ultmately beaten by Penske's Will Power, who closed to within 0.4mph of Castroneves in the end as he pushed Franchitti back to third.
Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Ganassi's Scott Dixon were fourth and sixth, split by another great effort from Alex Tagliani and the FAZZT team, who could not quite replicate their top three results from earlier.
Rahal Letterman Racing will start its first IndyCar race since last year's 500 from seventh place thanks to Graham Rahal's run today, with fellow returnee Ed Carpenter eighth in the Panther/Vision entry and Hideki Mutoh completing row three for Newman/Haas.
With positions 10 to 24 on the grid settled during the first five hours of qualifying today, all that remains on Bump Day tomorrow is to decide who occupies the back three rows, with at least two drivers set to miss out given the size of this year's field.
Provisional starting field:
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Helio Castroneves Penske 227.970mph
2. Will Power Penske 227.578mph
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 226.990mph
4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 226.554mph
5. Alex Tagliani FAZZT 226.390mph
6. Scott Dixon Ganassi 226.223mph
7. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman 225.519mph
8. Ed Carpenter Panther/Vision 224.507mph
9. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 223.487mph
10. Townsend Bell Ganassi/Schmid 225.097mph
11. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 225.050mph
12. Raphael Matos de Ferran Dragon 225.029mph
13. Mario Moraes KV 224.888mph
14. Davey Hamilton de Ferran Dragon 224.852mph
15. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 224.583mph
16. Marco Andretti Andretti 224.575mph
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 224.548mph
18. Dan Wheldon Panther 224.465mph
19. EJ Viso KV 224.380mph
20. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 224.261mph
21. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 224.243mph
22. Simona de Silvestro HVM 224.228mph
23. Danica Patrick Andretti 224.219mph
24. Bertrand Baguette Conquest 224.189mph