The first 24 spots for the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 were filled Saturday. Bruno Junqueira attempted the first qualification run of the day, secured a time of 231.342 miles per hour and retained the pole position the entire afternoon. In last year's race, Junqueira started in the 20th slot and finished fifth for the race.
"This year there were better conditions in qualifying for me," Junqueira said. "I've got experience, and I had time to practice."
The Chip Ganassi driver took time to discuss being the first car out for Pole Day.
"I don't think there was a benefit," he said. "I did the best I could. There's more pressure because I don't know what time we have to do and how much to push."
Junqueira was challenged once throughout the day as Robbie Buhl pushed his car to a time of 231.033 mph later Saturday afternoon. Buhl's last three laps were over 231.48 mph; it was his first lap at 229.576 mph that brought down his average time.
Raul Boesel was the third driver to finish out the front row as the veteran clocked in at 230.613 mph. Boesel was a late addition to the Menards team after Jaques Lazier was injured recently. John Menard said the quick transition of drivers has been difficult.
"This team has gone through so much emotionally the last few weeks since Jaques went down," Menard said. "But I can't say enough about what Raul's done and what my team has done here in such a short amount of time."
One of the bigger surprises of the day came from Sarah Fisher, teammate of Buhl. Fisher found herself on the outside of Row 3 as the only woman in the field after posting a time of 229.439 mph. After her run, Fisher explained that a solid spot in the field was all she was looking for.
"There was still a little left that we could have taken out with trim, but that wasn't the point," Fisher said. "We just wanted a steady, consistent car for qualifying, and it was perfect."
Last year's winner of the 500, Helio Castroneves will start this year's race on the inside of Row 5 in the 13th spot. Last year he began the race in 11th before winning.
Castroneves explained his dilemmas throughout the day, a day that was plagued with questions of the weather.
"When we went out on our first run, it wasn't as fast as we would have liked, so we took a chance and waved off and came in to make a few changes," he said. "Unfortunately, the car was slightly slower on my second attempt, and we had to take the time because we were concerned about the weather."
Castroneves isn't the only former winner that successfully made the field Saturday. Eddie Cheever found himself on the outside of Row 2 with a time of 229.786 mph while Al Unser Jr., two-time winner, locked a solid start in the 12th spot on the outside of Row 4.
Michael Andretti, another notable from Saturday's qualification attempts, found himself in the 23rd spot with a time of 226.780 mph, the second slowest accepted time of the day, second to Billy Boat with 226.589 mph.
Andretti wasn't pleased after his unexpected slower run.
"It was real disappointing," he said. "I thought we had a 227 and a half (mph) easy. We just haven't been able to be as comfortable as some of the other guys. I think we're missing something somewhere for the outright speed."
Persistent rain washed out second day qualifying Sunday. The final day of qualifications, Bump Day, is scheduled for Sunday, May 19. Practice will resume at 11 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, with no on-track activity Monday or Tuesday.112-U+â-Å-¦+â-ïgregindy500 5.12.02DNEditorial112SORT^+â-ä2AUDT