Tag was also a surprise in the Heartland, qualifying sixth. However, his team is still new to Indy and he's trying to fully shake a case of bronchitis that had him in an Indianapolis hospital last week.
The Fast Nine at Indy
The new, shorter Indianapolis 500 schedule has meant discarding the beloved "month of May" with all its extra qualifying, but it does feature some new elements that could potentially be quite exciting. With the reduction of qualifying from four to two days comes several changes in determining the grid, including a 90-minute shootout for the pole amongst the nine fastest drivers. IZOD IndyCar Series championship points will also be doled out according to starting position, with the pole sitter walking away with 15 markers. But who will be able to battle for the pole and those precious points? --Chris Estrada
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
You have to start with the three-time 500 winner and three-time pole sitter for the event. Last year at Indy, Castroneves threw up a four-lap average speed of 224.864 miles per hour to claim P1 as well as the perfect set-up for an emotional triumph on Memorial Day weekend. This year, he's already been the first guy to break the 227 range in practice (although that particular lap on Sunday was draft-assisted), so a quicker pole run may be possible for him in 2010.
Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske
Briscoe wasn't able to take down his teammate last year, coming up almost a full mile per hour short at 224.083 in qualifying. But 2010 could get him atop the pylon on Pole Day after three straight seasons of cracking the top nine spots. In 2007, he qualified seventh for Luczo Dragon Racing (now De Ferran Dragon Racing) in a one-off attempt and since he joined Team Penske in '08, he's started third and second at Indy.
Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
After whipping the field at the beginning of the month in Kansas, Dixon's got some steam under him. A pole run on Saturday could be a big omen considering that he won the 500 from P1 in 2008. Throughout his IZOD IndyCar Series career, Dixon has been a good qualifier at the Brickyard with five top-5 starts in seven tries. If he doesn't nab the pole, he'll be real close.
Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Franchitti hasn't won a pole at Indy in his IZOD IndyCar Series tenure, but he qualified third in 2007 and 2009. He's shown to have a strong car underneath him in the early going and as the pace ramps up toward the weekend, expect him to hang with Castroneves, teammate Dixon and the rest of them.
Will Power, Team Penske
Power qualified ninth last year in his first Indy run with Penske, but that was a part-time program. With his new standing as a full-time driver, he is definitely capable of grabbing the pole. Those 15 points would also prove handy in stabilizing his points lead through the current stretch of oval tracks on the IndyCar schedule.
Tony Kanaan, Andretti Autosport
At least one Andretti Autosport competitor seems assured of making the "Fast Nine" and if history is any indication, that driver will be Kanaan. He won the Indy pole in 2005 and has never started farther back than sixth (2008, 2009) at IMS.
Danica Patrick, Andretti Autosport
The biggest star in the sport may or may not have enough to win the pole, but she has a good chance to get involved in the shootout for it.
Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport
Ditto for Marco, who's qualified ninth, ninth, seventh, and eighth in his 500 career.