INDIANAPOLIS – With so many veteran drivers trying to make it into the field for the Indianapolis 500 on the second day of qualifications, it seemed unlikely the spotlight would fall on rookie Raphael Matos.
But the 28-year-old Indy rookie led the way Sunday, posting a four-lap average of 223.429 mph to top the second group of 11 drivers to make it into the 33-car field for the May 24 race.
Even Matos was impressed by how fast he ran – especially after failing to make it into the lineup on Saturday with a 222.466 effort.
“Yeah, I was a little bit surprised,” he said. “But we did a qualifying simulation during the five minutes before qualifying started, and we made a\ few adjustments in the car for the qualifying run and found almost half a mile an hour. So I’m extremely happy for the Luczo Dragon team. Let’s go racing.”
Sunday’s seven fastest drivers posted speeds quicker than the 222.622 by Alex Lloyd, the slowest of the 11 drivers who earned spots in the lineup on Saturday.
But, despite a warmer day without the wind gusts up to 25 mph that hampered the first-day runs, nobody was able to come anywhere near the pole-winning 224.864 by Helio Castroneves.
The Brazilian, who earned his third Indy pole in seven years, was part of a front row that included Penske Racing teammate Ryan Briscoe and 2007 Indy winner and Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti.
Second fastest on Sunday was longtime open-wheel star Paul Tracy, making his first appearance at Indy since finishing second to Castroneves in 2002.
NASCAR Sprint Cup
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Don’t let Mark Martin’s joyful demeanor fool you – he knows how well he’s running and knows where that could lead this season.
“It’s early in the year,” Martin said Saturday night. “A lot of cool things could happen the way things are going.”
Like maybe a Sprint Cup championship?
The 50-year-old Martin moved into playoff position, 11th in points, with his victory at Darlington Raceway – his second series win in four races. Martin outlasted his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, three-time defending series champ Jimmie Johnson, in a wreck-filled race.
“Once we got out front, man, it was just easy. The car was awesome,” Martin said.
In his, younger years, while driving for Roush Racing, Martin might have followed such a win by ticking off all the tracks down the road he planned to dominate.
These days, Martin wants to revel in the moment – and not look too far ahead.
“We don’t need to say we’re going to win a whole bunch of races,” Martin said. “Don’t take those kind of answers from me as pessimistic, or a lack of confidence. All I want to do is be happy and have fun doing this.”
BARCELONA, Spain – Jenson Button won his fourth Formula One race of the season Sunday by taking the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello.
Button’s two-stop strategy proved decisive as he became the ninth straight winner from pole position at the Circuit de Catalunya, even after Barrichello overtook him out of the start.
“I had the race in my hands and I was quite surprised when they told me they were switching Jenson to two (stops),” Barrichello said. “I would like to understand why they changed that.”
Mark Webber finished third ahead of Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, who trails Button by 18 points and is third overall.
Webber overtook Vettel in the closing laps for his second top-three finish of the season after Vettel had finally passed Felipe Massa with four laps remaining following a battle between the two drivers throughout the 66-lap race.
Massa would eventually finish sixth – behind Renault’s Fernando Alonso – as Ferrari remained without a top three finish for its longest opening period of a season since 1993.