Indy 500 2012: Helio Castroneves Is in Perfect Position to Win Race

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIMay 21, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 19:  Helio Castroneves the driver of the Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske car prepares for his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Although Helio Castroneves failed to win the pole position on Sunday at the Indy 500 qualifying, he is in prime position to win the race after his second row draw.

The three-time Indy 500 winner will be in the second row behind pole-sitter and fellow Team Penske racer Ryan Briscoe, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay both racing for Andretti Autosport. Accompanying Castroneves in Row 2 will be another Penske racer Will Power and Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport.

Castroneves started in the No. 1 spot in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama and finished the race in third place. At the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he started fifth and finished first.

It seems as though too much pressure typically comes with starting at the No. 1 spot of the race. Even if it is not the pressure that causes drivers to falter, it's the fact that it's nearly impossible to start first and stay there for 500 laps with the other drivers gunning for you the entire time.

Castroneves is no longer racing with a Honda engine, as he's done since 2006, and is now running on a Chevrolet engine. The Chevy engines dominated the pole and it wouldn't be surprising to see the same thing happen during the race.

Don't forget that he's won this race three times before and is definitely comfortable on the track at the Indy 500. He hasn't won since 2009 so you just know he'll be doing everything he can to win, that includes taking some high-risk/high-reward gambles.

He's also got one of his teammates in the same row with him, meaning that they'll have an easy time working together to prevent other drivers from passing. Nobody in the top-six has won a race this year except Castroneves who has taken one checkered flag and Will Power who has managed to grab three victories.

Castroneves will be able to hang back with Power and remain within striking distance of the leaders.

Briscoe's pole victory solidified that he is not to be forgotten about on Team Penske, as he has been thought of as the odd-man out in the trio of Castroneves and Power. But what's going to happen towards the end of the race if it's just Castroneves and Briscoe in the running for the checkered flag?

If both are about even, and one of them needs a little draft from the other to put themselves ahead of say, Andretti, it's obviously going to be the established star instead of the unproven driver.

Even if Castroneves doesn't come away with the checkered flag next Sunday, you'd be wise to bet on him finishing amongst the leaders of the pack.