Simon Pagenaud has claimed his first career pole on an oval and his second IndyCar pole, leading another Team Penske clean sweep of the front row for the 250-lap MAVTV 500.
The Frenchman posted a two-lap average speed of 218.952mph (352.369kph) on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, emerging comfortably quickest in the 23-car field.
Pagenaud topped teammate Helio Castroneves’ 2014 pole-winning average speed of 218.540mph and will start on the front row for the third consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series race. Castroneves qualified second-fastest with a two-lap average of 218.734mph in a specially-liveried Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet-powered #23 entry.
It is the fifth consecutive race that the Penske powerhouse has locked out the front row.
The result continues Pagenaud’s outstanding qualifying form – he has qualified in the top-five in all but one of the races this season – although incredibly it marked his first pole position of the season.
His challenge, as he readily admitted afterwards, will be to convert this into race-winning speed over a 500-mile race distance. His two previous speedway outings – the Indianapolis 500 and Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway – saw him claim front row starting positions, only to slip to tenth and eleventh at the chequered flag respectively.
“Thanks to my crew for the preparations and it’s exciting to get a superspeedway pole,” said Pagenaud, who is in his first season for the Penske outfit after a three year stint with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. “Qualifying is one thing. It’s a reward for performance. We have a 500-mile race and hopefully I can reward the team for its hard work. It’s a brand new team that is gelling really well.
“This (pole) is nice, but frankly, you can win from the back in a 500-mile race like (Juan Pablo) Montoya did (in the Indianapolis 500). Being able to run in different lanes and being smart in traffic is going to be key.”
Marco Andretti sprung a surprise by going third-fastest – a significant result given he is saddled with less-competitive Honda power and aerodynamic – with a 217.797mph avergage in his #27 Snapple Andretti Autosport entry. It was the American’s best qualifying result since securing pole position for the 2013 Pocono Indy 400.
“We maximized everything in qualifying, and I’m really happy with the race car for the long race. That’s the important thing,” said Andretti, who also took pole for the race at Auto Club Speedway in 2012.
CFH Racing co-owner/driver Ed Carpenter – who has finished on the podium in each of his last three outings at this superspeedway – qualified fourth-fastest with a 217.666 mph average speed in his #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet powered entry.
Current IndyCar Series championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya, who is aiming to complete his own ‘triple crown’ of 500-mile race victories – having won already at Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway – was fifth quickest with a 217.250mph average in his Team Penske entry.
The ex-F1 racer will share the third row with defending MAVTV 500 race-winner Tony Kanaan, who set a two-lap average pace of 217.184mph in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Positions seventh and eighth are occupied by the Kiwi-Aussie pair of Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) and defending series champion Will Power (Penske). Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda) and Sage Karam (Ganassi) rounded out the top ten.
Saturday’s 250-lap race gets underway at 1:36pm local time (GMT-7).
|2015 IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 – Qualifying Results|
|Grid||Driver||Team / Entry||Avg Speed|
|1||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||218.952mph|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||217.734mph|
|3.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||217.797mph|
|4.||Ed Carpenter||CFH Racing||217.666mph|
|5.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||217.250mph|
|6.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||217.184mph|
|7.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||217.184mph|
|8.||Will Power||Team Penske||217.176mph|
|9.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Racing||217.109mph|
|10.||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||217.060mph|
|11.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||216.878mph|
|12.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||216.490mph|
|13.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||216.242mph|
|14.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||215.983mph|
|15.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology||215.719mph|
|16.||Ryan Briscoe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||215.526mph|
|17.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Racing||215.346mph|
|18.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||213.720mph|
|19.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||213.639mph|
|20.||Tristan Vautier||Dale Coyne Racing||213.317mph|
|21.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||212.644mph|
|22.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing||210.528mph|
|23.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||no time|
Image via IndyCar Series
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