INDY 500 2012: 5 Drivers Who Could Win the Pole
Starting Saturday, the all-important qualifying stage for the Indianapolis 500 begins, and this weekend will determine if all the hard work the drivers have done this month has paid off. One thing is for certain, and that is you can’t win the Indy 500 if you don’t qualify for the race.
You are out there on the famed track all by yourself running against the clock and hoping that you don’t make a mistake or that something does not break on the car. In other words, running as fast as you can without wrecking is always the key.
Drivers face a completely different set of rules when qualifying for the Indy 500:
- Order—A blind draw is conducted prior to each qualification day.
- Warm-up laps—Each car is permitted two warm-up laps prior to the timed qualification laps. IndyCar Series officials may permit three warm-up laps if they deem it necessary.
- Green-flag laps—A qualification attempt consists of four timed laps. The aggregate time is recorded as the official qualifying time for the car.
- Pole Day—Qualifying is broken down into two segments, progressively narrowing the field to determine the pole winner.
- Segment One—Held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to determine positions 1-24 in the field based on the fastest four-lap averages. Once all 24 positions have been filled, bumping will occur until 4 p.m. Each car has up to three qualifying attempts. The top nine qualifiers advance to Segment 2.
- Segment Two—Held from 4:30 to 6 p.m., the top nine cars will run in reverse order based on Segment 1 speeds. All cars are required to make at least one attempt in Segment 2. Cars making additional attempts will receive an additional set of tires. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-9 based on their four-lap average during the segment.
- Bump Day—Positions 25-33 will be determined based on the day’s fastest four-lap average. Once starting field is set, any qualifying attempt that is faster than a qualified entrant in the starting field will bump the slowest qualifier, regardless of the day of qualification. The “bumping” entrant is placed at the rear of the field while the “bumped” entrant is removed from the field, but has the opportunity to bump his way back into the starting field as time allows. Each car is allowed three attempts.
*Qualifying was provided to Bleacher Report by the IndyCar public relations department.
Television of pole day coverage will air on NBC Sports Network on Saturday May 19th starting at 11 a.m.—2:30 p.m. ET, and then again 4:30 p.m.—6:30 p.m. Sunday. Bump Day they will have coverage starting noon—6:30 p.m. ET.
Radio is on IMS
Broadband is: IndyCar.com
OK who are the five men most likely to get the pole?
5. Dario Franchitti
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
When it comes to running hot laps, Dario Franchitti knows how to make a car sing. Thus far this season it has been a less than impressive road for him and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. That said, the most important thing thing to remember is the season is early and this is the first oval the drivers have seen.
So, Franchitti's knowledge of the track will be a huge advantage for him, and he is very worthy of being a top contender for the pole position.
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
This year, Ryan Hunter-Reay has been so close to victory he can almost taste it. He is one of two of the Andretti Autosport team members who could snag the pole. Clearly he has the car and the team to not only win the pole, but to win the race as well, so he is a strong contender.
The Andetti boys have been really working hard to make sure one of their team drivers makes it to victory lane, and Hunter-Reay is poised to be that man.
3. Will Power
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
No one has seen more of victory lane this season than Will Power. There is no doubt, as I have written that Team Penske has dominated every aspect of the IndyCar series thus far in 2012. However, as talented a driver Power is, Indy is just not his track.
There is every reason to consider Power a true challenger at Indy, but his past does not bode well for him taking the pole. That said, there is no way you can discount him from being the poll-sitter because it seems that every time we underestimate him he is more than happy to prove us wrong.
2. James Hinchcliffe
Nick Laham/Getty Images
He is a bit of a sleeper pick, but James Hinchcliffe is a guy made to win an Indy pole. He is brash, fearless and one of the top young stars on the IndyCar series. As I have said before, the guys at Andretti Autosport know how to get a car ready for Indy, and this kid can flat drive the wheels off his car.
So, with the Andretti Autosport gang behind him and a world of talent in his hands, I think you must consider Hinchcliffe a real contender for taking the pole at Indy.
1. Helio Castroneves
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
There is not a man in the entire IndyCar Series with a better record at Indy than Helio Castroneves. One must have "Spider-Man" at the top of your list for Indy qualifiers. He has four polls to his credit, from 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Clearly, with his powerful Team Penske car there should be nothing stopping him from nailing down his fifth poll. That would tie him with the legendary Rick Mears as the only men to start the race from the pole position five times.
My Spidey Sense tells me Castroneves will be on the pole come Sunday night.