INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Barnhart looked over his right shoulder and spoke to Indy 500 pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, yet his plea for safety was for all of the drivers.

"Helio, I want you to use the pace car for exactly what it is, setting the pace," the Indy Racing League's director of operations said at a public drivers' meeting Saturday, a day before the race. "It's not a lag-behind car. Maintain a steady pace as you come off Turn 4, giving all the rows behind you an opportunity to get on the front straightaway for the start."

Castroneves and 31 of the other 32 drivers were on a bleacher behind Barnhart for the 40-minute meeting along the main straightaway.

The only driver missing was Robby Gordon, who was in Concord, N.C., to practice for NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. Gordon plans to drive in both races.

Barnhart outlined the schedule for the 500, which starts at noon, reminded the drivers of the 100-to-110 mph speed limit as they come through the third and fourth turns toward the green-flag start. He warned the drivers not to crowd as they jockey for position.

"Three abreast on a pretty narrow race track, you guys need to take care of each other," Barnhart said. "Maintain your discipline and your distance between the rows. Helio has earned the pole and the responsibilities that go with it. I want his car to hit the start-finish line first."

Barnhart warned the drivers against getting too anxious.

"In the 86-year history of this event, I've never heard a driver say, 'I won that race because of a great move or a great pass I made in the first turn of the first lap,' " he said. "Use your head, be patient, make good decisions.

"Keep yourself under control, and remember you should use the first 400 miles to position yourself to be in place to race hard for the win in the last 100 miles."

Barnhart told the nine rookies in the race that the three-abreast start will be unlike anything they had experienced.

"Your adrenaline will be pumping," he said.

IN THE PITS: Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves also was given the No. 1 pit, closest to the entrance lane to the track.

Speedway rules allow adjacent pits for teammates, so Castroneves' Penske teammate Gil de Ferran will occupy Pit 2, even though Tony Kanaan was the second-fastest qualifier.

Castroneves downplayed the importance of starting in front.

"I wish it was an advantage. Unfortunately, it's not," he said. "But for sure it minimizes problems at the start. Now we have to just be patient and go for it. It's such a long race. So we have to be focused and patient."

The four Andretti Green teammates will have the next three pits after the two Penskes, with Kanaan in Pit 3, Michael Andretti in Pit 4, Robby Gordon in Pit 5 and rookie Dan Wheldon in Pit 6.

Greg Ray has a car No. 13 in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1914, but there's still no pit No. 13. The designated pits along the main straightaway include Pit 12, which has been assigned to rookie Tora Takagi, followed by Pit 12A for Felipe Giaffone and then Pit 14 for Alex Barron.

The only breaks in the progression are for the entrance to Gasoline Alley, between Scott Sharp in Pit 9 and Kenny Brack in Pit 10; at the start-finish line after Ray in Pit 16; for the broadcast-public address in Pit 17; and at an opening in the wall between Sam Hornish Jr. in Pit 25 and rookie Buddy Rice in Pit 26. Rice's crew won the annual pit-stop contest and a $30,000 prize on Thursday.

The final pit, at the north end of the pit road closest to the exit from the track, was assigned to Richie Hearn.

PAINTED HELMET: Pop artist Peter Max, who painted the "Art in Motion" cover of this year's Indianapolis 500 program, presented a helmet he painted to Speedway President Tony George before Saturday's drivers' meeting.

Max said he was impressed with "the power of this place."

"I had no idea it was so large, so well organized," he said. "I was back before with Helio (Castroneves), and they were assembling the car. It's just tremendous."

Max said he was a casual race fan until Dale Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, asked him to do a painting of Earnhardt's car. Before that, "I would watch it, but I would never know the names of everybody. . . . Artists don't really know that much about sports."

SPARKPLUGS: The total purse, which last year topped $10 million for the first time, and each driver's share won't be known until Monday night at the Victory Dinner. . . . Michael Andretti, whose sponsors include Jim Beam Brands, donated $10,000 to Butler University for its new Alcohol 101 Plus program. . . . Lacey Minchew, Miss Teen America, was a guest of driver Jimmy Kite for the 500 Festival Parade on Saturday. Kite lives in the south Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge, Ga., while Minchew lives in Marietta, north of Atlanta. . . . Kite, Airton Dare and rookies A.J. Foyt IV and Dan Wheldon were the only drivers not wearing sunglasses during Saturday's meeting. . . . Comedian Dennis Miller sat next to former car owner and STP president Andy Granatelli at the meeting. . . . Astronaut David Wolf, an Indianapolis native who has made three trips aboard the space shuttle, spoke at the meeting. "By the way," Wolf noted, "I turned my last lap a shade under 18,000 (mph). But these guys are a lot closer to the ground, so it must feel a lot faster."

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