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 fr Team Penske 218.952mph
2. Hélio Castroneves br Team Penske 217.734mph
3. Marco Andretti us Andretti Autosport 217.797mph
4. Ed Carpenter us CFH Racing 217.666mph
5. Juan Pablo Montoya co Team Penske 217.250mph
6. Tony Kanaan br Chip Ganassi Racing 217.184mph
7. Scott Dixon nz Chip Ganassi Racing 217.184mph
8. Will Power au Team Penske 217.176mph
9. Takuma Sato jp A.J. Foyt Racing 217.109mph
10. Sage Karam us Chip Ganassi Racing 217.060mph
11. Carlos Muñoz co Andretti Autosport 216.878mph
12. Josef Newgarden us CFH Racing 216.490mph
13. Charlie Kimball us Chip Ganassi Racing 216.242mph
14. Ryan Hunter-Reay us Andretti Autosport 215.983mph
15. Sébastien Bourdais fr KV Racing Technology 215.719mph
16. Ryan Briscoe au Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 215.526mph
17. Jack Hawksworth uk A.J. Foyt Racing 215.346mph
18. Gabby Chaves co Bryan Herta Autosport 213.720mph
19. Graham Rahal us Rahal Letterman Lanigan 213.639mph
20. Tristan Vautier fr Dale Coyne Racing 213.317mph
21. Stefano Coletti mc KV Racing Technology 212.644mph
22. Pippa Mann uk Dale Coyne Racing 210.528mph
23. James Jakes uk Schmidt Peterson Motorsports no time

Image via IndyCar Series

The following two tabs change content below.

Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8