Originally created 06/04/06

Pole goes to Castroneves after rains come down



WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Helio Castroneves had to work hard to win the pole for the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix last fall. Rain made it a lot easier the second time around.

Showers and a crowded schedule at Watkins Glen International forced the IRL to cancel qualifying Saturday for the Indy Grand Prix. That gave Castroneves the No. 1 starting slot for today's race because he posted the fastest lap in the first two rounds of practice.

"We proved that we're really fast. It's just a shame we couldn't go a little bit more, but we're satisfied," said Castroneves, who was just off the track record of 133.806 mph he set last September.

Starting alongside Castroneves on the front row will be fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan, and lurking in the second row will be Marco Andretti, who was third fastest of the 19 cars that will start the race.

It will be a new experience for the 19-year-old rookie, who was joking with his father, Michael, and grandfather, Mario, in the pits after briefly practicing.

"He's learning how to race in the back because he started in the back a few times," Kanaan said. "Now, he's back in the front. I've got to watch my mirrors, for sure."

Castroneves was watching his mirrors during the six practice laps he ran in Saturday's lone session because Andretti was right behind him much of the time. Andretti once briefly darted to the inside entering the first turn, the tires on the cars leaving a rooster tail of water spraying high into the air, then ducked back behind Castroneves entering the 90-degree curve.

"He tried to pass, but not here, buddy," Castroneves said, smiling. "He lost his chance. That's why, if you have an opportunity, don't miss it."

CHAMP CAR MILWAUKEE: The torn-up cars strewn among the team transporters behind pit road told the story: The Milwaukee Mile is being very unkind to drivers.

The series, which will hold its only oval race of the season today on the treacherous flat track at Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, has taken a series of jolts since practice began.

Oriol Servia and Nelson Philippe tested the track's new energy-absorbing SAFER Barriers on Friday, with Philippe checked out at a nearby hospital for neck and back pain before being released and cleared to drive.

On Saturday, former series champion Cristiano da Matta, Alex Tagliani and Bruno Junqueira, racing on an oval for the first time since breaking his back in a crash during the May 2005 Indianapolis 500, all slammed into the wall. None was injured.

Each of the crashes came under virtually perfect racing conditions - sunny and highs in the low 70s. The only problem was a gusty wind in the morning morning that may have contributed to several of the crashes, including the brutal hit by Tagliani, who took six stitches in his right hand.