Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Preview and Writers Pool Picks

Ryan WordenFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 25:  Scott Dixon driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara pours milk on his head to celebrate winning the IndyCar Series 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

After a week of practice laps at a wet and cold Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the drivers of the IZOD Indycar Series will take to the track on Saturday morning to attempt to gather enough speed to place their car into the field for the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Friday's practice featured much better weather than expected.  Teams went into the day expecting either a complete washout or less than an hour of practice.  As it turned out, cars were able to run basically the entire day with only slight delays for sprinkles.  Many drivers chose to run very little, but the track did see 1,308 laps turned on the day.

Helio Castroneves topped the speed chart again on Friday, with a fast speed of 226.56 in only 17 laps.  Will Power posted the second fastest time, followed by Alex Tagliani.  One thing is clear despite all the cloudy skies...Penske is going to be fast on pole day. 

What is not clear however is how these cars are going to be running once those clouds part, the sun begins to shine, and most importantly the track heats up.  Indycar's lose grip on the track if it gets too hot, however hotter temperatures tend to mean faster speeds as well.

The expected forecast calls for sunny skies and temps in the 80s, which the cars have not yet seen.  The new conditions could result in some very interesting time trials.

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There is a new format for this year's qualifying.  Starting at 11 am on Saturday, the fastest 24 drivers will work their way into the field.  Bumping will begin to get the fastest 24 in the field by 4 pm. 

At 4 pm, the fastest nine drivers will then compete in the pole shootout.  Between 4:30 and 6 pm, all nine drivers will have their times erased and must make a new qualifying run.  Those new times will determine the pole, as drivers will be given two chances during the ninety minute session.

Sunday will feature filling the field to 33 cars, and then as much bumping as possible, as the drivers on the outside looking in attempt to bump their way in.  The winner of the pole will get a few extra bonuses this year, gaining $175,000 in bonus money, and 15 bonus points for the season championship. 

Second place will gain $75,000, while third garners $50,000.  Varying levels of bonus points will be awarded to all qualifiers who make the field.

Versus network will have all the coverage, seven and a half hours of qualifying action to make even the most seasoned Indycar lover giddy.  From 11  am to 6:30pm, you can get all the Indycar coverage you could possibly want.  Until then, please enjoy our writer's picks for the qualifying session.

Points will be awarded as bonuses since Indycar has decided to do the same.  Our writers will select the top three qualifiers, they will also select one driver who should not make the fast nine, but is able to.  Also, they will pick one driver who should make the top nine but is unable to. 

Correct pole gets the writer 10 points, second will result in seven points, and third will result in four points.  Correctly picking the other two categories will win the writer five points.  Picking a top three driver but in the wrong order will still result in two points for each driver picked.

So without further ado, here are the writers picks for qualifying for the 94th Indianapolis 500.

Chad Smith

Starting third – Dan Wheldon
Starting second – Helio Castroneves
Starting on the Pole – Scott Dixon

Someone that shouldn’t make the top nine but will: Alex Tagliani

Someone that should make the top nine but won’t: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Christopher Leone

Pole is gonna be Helio, he’s been pacing practices all week long and obviously knows his way around the speedway.

Second will be Dixon, because he’s also been up there and what is a good IndyCar competition without Ganassi?

Third will be Dario, because the two Ganassi cars are pretty much equal everywhere. On the other hand the Penske cars will be a little more spread out, with neither of the Captain’s other two drivers being all that strong at Indy yet.

Dark horse is Moraes. He’s been fast at Indy the past two years and even led laps as a rookie in 2008. Anywhere else he’s still an iffy pick, but the kid grasps the speedway.

Driver who should qualify in the top nine but won’t is gonna be Marco Andretti in a tight battle for the last spot with Tony Kanaan and Paul Tracy.

Ryan Worden

Pole: Helio Castroneves.  Helio is the best driver to take to the famous brickyard since Rick Mears...at least when it comes to Indianapolis.  He is always fast at the track.  He will be looking for his fourth win at the 500.  All this means he is highly motivated to cash in that pole check with all the bonus points that come with it.

Second: Marco Andretti.  Marco didn't make it out of the south short shute on the first lap of last years race, so he is extra motivated this year.  Aside from that, he has been fast.  The Venom car has looked good the last several days, and I suppose I am a sucker for watching Andretti's do well before failing.

Third: Scott Dixon.  Dixie has been fast this month, atop the speed charts a few times.  He won the race in 2008, and will be looking to put his face back on the Borg this year.  He will challenge for the pole, but just won't have quite enough.

Dark Horse: Alex Tagliani.  Tags is having an interesting month.  His personal car has been incredibly fast, however he is also attempting to field a car for Bruno Junquiera.  The No. 33 car for Bruno has not made it to the track yet.  Despite this problem, Tags will attempt to stay focused and put his car into the top nine.

The one who won't make it: Ryan Briscoe.  Briscoe is one of my favorite drivers.  I picked him to run away with the championship.  However, he has been struggling this year for some reason.  Struggling for a Penske driver of course means he is in seventh place in the standings.  Of the six I think are in the "guaranteed to make it" category, I think Briscoe is the unlucky one.

Christen : Our control pick.  Christen is a friend of mine who has been visiting the track during practice.  This makes her slightly more educated than our usual control pick, however she has also been listening to my insanity for a few days, which has the reverse affect.  Could be the best week ever for control...could be the worst...oh, and I'm pretty sure she is picking based on looking on their photos in the program.

1. Vitor Meira
Honestly I don't know anything about Vitor Meira other than he drives for A.J. Foyt and after hearing stories about A.J. Foyt, he is pretty much my new hero. The man was attacked by a lion! He probably is the greatest story teller just based off of his own experiences of cheating death. He has the greatest luck ever. I want him to buy me a lottery ticket.

2. Will Power
Will Power is on my list because his last name is Power. It's an easy name to remember, plus he sounds like a winner. His name makes an awfully cheesy slogan and that is enough for me to think he must be a good racer.

3. Danica Patrick. I have to cheer for the ladies because I would love to see some major girl power out on the track. Ideally, I'd like the women to kick ass and place 1-5 but I know enough about racing to know that won't happen (ed note...err...Danica placed third last year).

Driver who won't make it in but should: Helio Castroneves. I'm cheering for Helio because I would like him to win a fourth Indy 500 so he could join another celebrity reality show.

I'm thinking Helio could be a contender on Celebrity Apprentice if Donald Trump decides to do another season since he has already tackled Dancing with the Stars. Indy Car Driver, Dancer, Apprentice, there's nothing this man can't do  (err...despite all this, she is picking him to be outside the top nine).

Driver who will make it in but shouldn't: Graham Rahal. Purple is by far my favorite color and Graham has a purple car. Although he's such a cutie, he got shafted in the sponsor department with the Quicktrim car.

Ideally, I think that each driver should get a lifetime supply of the product that is endorsing them and poor Graham has no use for Quicktrim. Unless there is a Kardashian as a driver, Quicktrim has no place in the Indy 500. Hopefully McDonald's took care of him.

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