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Forgotten Castroneves Re-Emerges At Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have been running together for decades.

As Pole Day for the Indianapolis 500 showed, they're still virtually inseparable.

The Brazilian karting prodigies have taken their friendly rivalry to one of racing's grandest shows _ the Indianapolis 500, where they will start side-by-side on the front row in the May 27 race.

``I think it's been a healthy, healthy competition for me,'' Kanaan said. ``I think he (Castroneves) has been the reference for me. I can't speak for him but ... we grew up together, beating each other ... racing against each other.''

There are distinctions.

One wears red, the other green. One has perfectly combed jet-black hair while the other shaves his head. One stays in shape playing tennis and boxing while the other prefers mountain biking.

But on the track, they're like brothers.

At age 32, the two Brazilians who now call Miami home are still on top of their games, fighting for position and trying to outdo one another.

Both are among the top five in IndyCar series points this season, and both have seen their profiles skyrocket in America since moving full-time from the rival CART circuit in 2002.

The biggest edge has always come at Indianapolis, Castroneves' personal playground.

He won his first two Indy races, is one of only five drivers with back-to-back wins on the 2.5-mile oval and earned his second pole in qualifying Saturday.

Kanaan has usually qualified well at Indianapolis only to endure frustration come race day. He has three top-five finishes in the last four years and won the pole two years ago but has yet to reach Victory Lane.

``I've been in the right place at the right time, won twice here,'' Castroneves said. ``He's won championships and he's demonstrated he's a very competitive driver.''

Saturday's late-afternoon duel showcased their competition.

Kanaan's teammate at Andretti Green, Dario Franchitti, held the pole for five hours before Castroneves bested that with a four-lap average of 225.817 mph in the waning minutes of qualifying.

Minutes later, as the first of four days of qualifying ended, Kanaan tried to reclaim the pole for Andretti's team. For three laps, it appeared Kanaan had it. But he slowed slightly on the last lap and finished with a 225.757, six-hundreths of a second slower than Castroneves.

That put Kanaan in the middle of Row 1, giving the Brazilians their second one-two start at Indy since 2003, and left Franchitti, a Scot, on the outside.

It didn't change changed their friendship.

``We had our good moments, our bad moments, we had our fights, and he knows I'm stubborn,'' Kanaan said. ``I think seeing him doing good, I would say, 'Well, I know what I can do against him.'''

Now with more than two decades of competition complete and who knows how many years left to go, Kanaan and Castroneves continue enjoying life, pulling pranks on one another and renewing e their personal rivalry.

The only thing that could add more juice to the battle would be finishing 1-2.

``We love each other. We hate each other,'' Castroneves said. ``But at the end of the day, I do believe the guy upstairs is looking after us, and it's giving us what we deserve.''
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