The Verizon IndyCar Series is set for the penultimate race of the 2015 season, at Pocono Raceway. Helio Castroneves earned another championship point as he captured his fourth Pole of the season. Castroneves had a two-lap average speed of 220.530 mph. It’s the 45th career Pole for the Brazilian, as Team Penske took the top three spots (Simon Pagenaud, Will Power) in qualifying. A Penske car will have started on the Pole in 12 of the 15 races this season.
The fourth Penske driver, championship leader Juan Montoya, will start in the back of the field. During his qualifying run, Montoya had trouble getting through Turn 1, and had to get out of the throttle. He will start 19th tomorrow.
Graham Rahal was able to capitalize on the bad fortune for Montoya. He will start fifth tomorrow, just behind Josef Newgarden. An Andretti trio took the next three spots, with Carlos Munoz, Justin Wilson, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais round out the top ten. Scott Dixon still has a good shot at the championship, but will roll off 11th tomorrow. None of the four Ganassi cars qualified in the top ten, something that hasn’t happened since the second dual race in Detroit in 2014.
There was a 48-minute delay after Charlie Kimball’s scary crash in Turn 3 during his qualifying run. His car spun in the middle of the turn and slammed into the outside wall, then climbed over the wall and got into the fence. Fortunately Charlie was okay, escaping with some minor cuts and bruises. Crews then had to go to work to repair the Turn 3 fence. Kimball was fastest in the morning practice, and had just run the fastest warm up lap prior to his accident. He will start the race in the last row with Stefano Coletti, who did not qualify due to his car not being ready after hitting the wall earlier in practice.
Below is a video of Kimball’s accident, courtesy of IndyCar.
It wasn’t a great showing for either of the Pennsylvania drivers, Marco Andretti and Sage Karam. Marco qualified 22nd, and despite being second fastest in morning practice, Karam will start his final race of his Rookie campaign in 20th. Between them in 21st sits Ed Carpenter, who will also be running his last race this year. Sebastian Saavedra will be in the No. 8 car, and Luca Filippi will drive the No. 20 car next weekend at Sonoma.
It’s been 91 days since Team Penske has won an IndyCar race. Since that last win, the four Penske drivers have combined for 0 wins, five podiums, and six DNF’s. In fact, over the last eight races, Montoya and Power have a combined 0 podium finishes. The good news for Montoya is that he dominated here last year, and he’s led the championship for the entire season. He was also leading in the standings with two races to go in 1999, when he won his first championship.
Two big records are on the line tomorrow. Montoya is trying to become the first driver since Sam Hornish Jr in 2001 to lead the championship from start to finish. Andretti has completed every lap of competition this season. The only driver to have ever completed every lap in a season was Tony Kanaan in 2004.
The race distance is 200 laps, which is 500 miles around the 2.5-mile triangle. Montoya is the defending race winner after starting from Pole position last year. There will be a 30-minute final practice beginning at 6:15 today. Coverage for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2 PM on NBC Sports Network.
Below are highlights from today’s qualifications, courtesy of IndyCar.
Helio Castroneves: “It was a good day. It was a solid run, man. I could not believe it, especially with the delay. Good thing Charlie (Kimball) is OK. When you start building up anxiety with the wind picking up, you don’t know what’s going to happen, you’re like, ‘Oh, boy, let’s get going.’ Thankfully, everybody did an excellent job fixing the track and we were able to continue qualifying. With that, the car was unbelievable, flawless. Basically like I said, ‘Don’t lift, just keep going.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It was a good run. This morning we did a good job on the Penske Truck Rental car, understanding how it’s going to work in traffic and during the race. Quite challenging now is the rear bumper (of the car is now) filled up. It makes it very difficult in traffic. The car was great. It was an interesting run. We had a bit of a scrub in Turn 1, a bit of a lift. We missed the balance there a little bit, but then the car was really fast overall, just had too much (tire) degradation on the second lap to hold onto it. Super proud of the guys and Team Penske, 1-2-3 (in qualifying). Good job for the team on the car preparation.”
Juan Montoya: “You can’t really know what’s going to happen. We’ve done a really good job all year, like everybody else, had ups and downs, and we’ll see what it brings.”
Ryan Briscoe: “Qualifying today was a little so-so. We didn’t quite hit the balance. The first practice session flew by so quick and we never got our qual sim in, so just missed the balance a little bit in qualifying. I felt like we had the right amount of downforce on it and we had good speed. I just had to lift in Turn 1 because of the understeer. That kind of hurt us, but we were able to relay that feedback back to the No. 7 car (teammate James Jakes) and I think it helped them out. I think qualifying could’ve been better but the car felt reasonably strong and we had good speed, so hopefully that will translate into a good race.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a good effort from the Mistic E-Cigs – KVSH Racing crew. We had a bit of trouble at the end of the practice this morning, so we didn’t really know what we had for qualifying. We had a very disconnected car, in practice, understeer, oversteer and in qualifying the car was very free, but pretty solid. I didn’t play too much with the adjustments, so no complaints. I am just happy to have managed two flat out laps, which I have never done at Pocono in qualifying until today. It is a 500-mile race, so you never know what can happen. Hopefully we can have a good race and stay in contention for a top-five finish in the championship.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a very good run. We had a very good morning practice session and the car improved with every run. We were confident for qualifying. Obviously it is always a balance between downforce and drag. The car was sliding a bit, but I was able to control it and was satisfied with the lap. So good job to all the ABC Supply boys and engineers for making the car very fast. Hopefully we’ll have a good car in the race.”
Graham Rahal: “That was a good qualifying session for sure. To get the Steak ‘n Shake Honda in the top-five feels really was good. I definitely think the aero efficiency of the Chevy has an advantage over us here, but my guys did a great job to get us a starting spot up front, particularly engineers Mike (Talbott) and (race engineer) Eddie (Jones) who chose a good downforce level (for qualifying). We didn’t shoot for it all. I told them ‘Let’s be conservative, let’s get some good laps and we’ll be alright.’ To be the top Honda feels good again but we’ve got a big day tomorrow, I’ve got to make up some points and I think we can do it. We have to chase down Juan (Montoya) in the points. Obviously qualifying didn’t go his way but Juan is one heck of a competitor and I know he will be there right on our heels tomorrow. This is a relief. Starting practice today we were so slow I was really concerned, but all of a sudden the car came to life.”
Ed Carpenter: “It’s hard when you get into these two-day shows and we’ve been behind since we got here. After our qualifying run, it is back to the drawing board. I have to do a better job, we all have to do a better job. Hopefully, I have a better practice later, but we certainly have a lot of work to do.”
Justin Wilson: “Definitely looking forward to the race tomorrow. I’ve got to thank Andretti Autosport and Honda; the car is working really well here. I’m really pleased with it. Hopefully we can keep making a couple more tweaks and get even better for this evening’s practice, and do some race running. I think it will be a good race.”
Carlos Munoz: “I think I was expecting a little lower (speeds), I was expecting 218s. The car was really good, we changed some stuff on warm-up. I love this track. I’ve always been competitive here, so I’m OK with qualifying. I think we did the best with what we had and tomorrow is a 500-mile race, so we will see what can happen.”
Marco Andretti: “(On the first lap) the car went down into (Turn) 1 and it just didn’t turn. It really caught me off guard — I almost hit the wall with the right front (tire). I just had to really pedal it and save it. To regather it and still have one more lap to go … it was a long run. I think we got a little greedy, but luckily it’s 500 miles of racing tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I think that was a good run. We could have been a little bit better maybe, but you have to be careful. Especially considering what happened with Charlie (Kimball) there – you can overstep it here. It’s a fine line. Usually for 500-mile races it’s not a big deal for qualifying, you don’t put much emphasis on it, but here it’s very tough to pass sometimes. They don’t call it the Tricky Triangle for nothing.”
Josef Newgarden: “The No. 67 Chevrolet has been really good. We had a tough first session there, trying to get on top of all of the changes we needed to make and everything that was going on with the car. We didn’t roll off like we wanted to, but I feel bad now because we were really fast during our qualifying run. I think the car had another half-mile per hour, maybe a mile per hour, in it. We were shooting in the dark a little bit, we did the best we could. We have a great team, we always come back really strong when we don’t start that well. I am happy with that, I hope that keeps us up towards the top of the pecking order.”
Charlie Kimball: “I’m all right, just a little disappointed. Really disappointed. Went into (Turn) 1 and the car caught me out a little bit with the handling, so I made some adjustments and I don’t know if it was the wind or what caught me going into (Turn) 3. Maybe I was a little aggressive, but it’s qualifying. You have to go for it. I’m really disappointed for the whole Novo Nordisk team. I know a lot of guys from Novo Nordisk are coming up and the car was really fast this morning. That’s the good thing about having a crew like Chip Ganassi Racing behind you. I know that the car they pull out of the trailer will be just as good.”
Qualification Photos via IndyCar