Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet has the Verizon P1 Pole Award for Saturday’s MAVTV 500 race, with a two-lap average speed of 218.952 mph. He was the third driver to qualify and never looked back. This marks the second career pole position for the Frenchman. It was a first on several levels – his first with his new team, Penske Racing; his first oval track pole, and first pole this year. This will be his fourth Start in Fontana.
“Congratulations to my crew. I’m very happy. We haven’t had much luck this year, so this is good. 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.”
Last year’s pole winner, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet, had a two-lap average of 218.540 mph.
Runner-up was Castroneves. This weekend marks his twelfth start at the Southern California two-mile oval track, with three poles and one victory. Heat and tire degradation is a concern for all drivers. Castroneves said “It’s very slippery when it’s hot, becoming very challenging. Even when you have several lanes to go, the car just wants to go one way. And that’s the biggest one, trying to find your lines without having any huge moments.”
Completing the qualifying podium was Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Honda. He had the pole for the 2012 IndyCar race at Auto Club Speedway. He said “We maximized everything in qualifying, and I’m really happy with the race car for the long race. That’s the important thing.” The third generation Andretti acknowledged that he was indeed running an asymmetrical setup; but – with a huge grin – said he wasn’t going to talk about it.
Fourth through sixth were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet; Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet; and Scott Dixon/No.9 Degree Chevrolet. Last year’s race winner, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet qualified seventh.
The 2014 IndyCar Champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing will start eighth and ninth.
Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet was the top Rookie, qualifying tenth.
Despite qualifying last, Pippa Mann/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, was most enthusiastic after her run. With a big smile on her face, she said she hasn’t had the best of experience in her prior one experience at the track (DNF), but is looking forward to a better race this time. “Not a fast qual today, but a good day of learning overall! Back to work on our race car now in the engineering room.”
Some say It takes a village … and so it appeared with the repairs to the No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda of James Jakes. The car required an engine change and other checks in the rear end. Jakes was slated to qualify in eleventh position, of the 23 slots. As Jakes’ car wasn’t ready at his designated time, he wasn’t allowed to qualify, and will start the race from the back of the field.
The temperature dropped from the high of 97 to a mere 95 at the beginning of qualifying, and cooled as the session continued. Track temperature ranged from 132F-140F in various parts of the track.
UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS
1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 218.952 mph
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 218.734
3. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 217.797
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 217.666
5. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 217.250
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 217.184
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 217.184
8. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 217.176
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 217.109
10. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 217.060
11. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 216.878
12. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.490
13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 216.242
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 215.983
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.719
16. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 215.526
17. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 215.346
18. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 213.720
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 213.639
20. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 213.317
21. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 212.644
22. (18) Pippa Mann, Honda, 210.528
23. (7) James Jakes, Honda, no speed