-- All Buddy Rice wanted was a chance.

So far, so good.

The youngster who replaced injured Kenny Brack at Rahal Letterman Racing surprised just about everyone Saturday by winning the pole for the May 30 Indianapolis 500.

"I don't think we always show our complete hand until it's time to do it," Rice said after posting a four-lap, 10-mile average of 222.024 mph.

Despite winning his first IRL pole in the season opener at Homestead in Florida, Rice was not even among the favorites going into the first of three rounds of time trials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"That's obviously what I was brought here to do when I came to sub for Kenny," said Rice, who lost his ride with Eddie Cheever's team late last season but was chosen in December to replace Brack, the recuperating former Indy 500 winner and IRL champion.

"I can still drive, obviously," said Rice, 28. "Some people didn't think I could do that.

"I think you've got to take everything as it comes, though. Every driver has a story and everybody has been on a roller coaster. It's just part of the path you take to get here."

Even before Saturday's performance, Rice had been assured by the team co-owned by 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal and TV personality David Letterman that he will still have a ride when Brack returns to the cockpit later this season.

Meantime, Brack, who watched qualifying from the pit lane, has been acting as an adviser to Rice and teammates Roger Yasukawa and Vitor Meira, who all were among the 22 qualifiers on Saturday.

"Obviously, Kenny's not driving, but what he brings in from the technical side is tremendous," Rice said. "I'm not sure we knew we were going to run 222, but we knew we had enough to go for the pole, for sure.

"People say we were under the radar all month."

Tony Kanaan, the fastest driver during the six days of practice leading to the first of three days of qualifying, said he was surprised by Rice.

"Yeah, everybody was," said Kanaan, who wound up a disappointing fifth at 221.200, trailing Andretti Green Racing teammates Dan Wheldon (221.524) and Dario Franchitti (221.471) as well as Newman/Haas Racing's Bruno Junqueira (221.379).

Helio Castroneves, last year's polesitter and a two-time Indy winner, was a disappointing eighth at 220.882. His Toyota-powered Dallara was the only car without a Honda engine to break into the top nine.

"We had a range where we were going from being brave to being stupid," Castroneves said.

Robby Gordon qualified early Saturday then flew to Richmond to race in Saturday night's NASCAR event. Gordon, who wound up 24th there, plans to drive in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day for the third consecutive year.

Buddy Rice, replacement for injured Kenny Brack at Rahal Letterman Racing, averages 222.024 in gaining pole. "I can still drive, obviously," Rice said.