Simon Pagenaud on Pole at GP of Indy

Simon Pagenaud is red hot right now. Neon hot might be more fitting, given the glow from his No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. The Frenchman has won the last two Verizon IndyCar Series races, and finished runner-up in the other two races so far this season. Today he won his second pole of the year, and will lead the field to the green flag in tomorrow’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Pagenaud won the inaugural event here two years ago, and has already added another point to his championship lead, which is now 49 points over Scott Dixon. Simon won the pole with a lap of 1:08.6868 seconds around the 2.439-mile road course.

Charlie Kimball will start alongside Pagenaud on the front row, with Honda drivers James Hinchcliffe and Jack Hawksworth starting in Row 2. Tony Kanaan and Juan Montoya will start in Row 3, and Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais will share Row 4 on Saturday. Mikhail Aleshin and Will Power will now start in the top ten, because of a penalty announced Friday evening.

Both Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden were moved to the rear of the starting field. IndyCar announced that the No. 15 RLL and No. 21 ECR cars failed post-qualifying technical inspection. Both cars violated Rule 14.3.1.1 of the Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book for minimum car weight. Rahal, who qualified 3rd, will now start 24th. Newgarden qualified 5th, but will now start 25th in tomorrow’s race.

On a more positive note, there were six teams represented in the Firestone Fast Six, and there were a few Honda-powered cars that looked strong. Still, it was the seventh consecutive pole for Penske, dating back to last season.

Qualification Results for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis

After dominating the practice sessions, Team Penske only managed to get one car in the Firestone Fast Six. Montoya starts in 6th now, because of the penalties to Rahal and Newgarden. Last year’s winner Will Power will now roll off in 10th position. Helio Castroneves has struggled all weekend, and qualified in 15th on Friday, but will start in 13th. Power knows that he messed up in qualifying again today, and is frustrated with his own performance. “We were great in practice and I messed up in qualifying. Again. It seems like it’s every week now. It’s getting pretty frustrating. It’s difficult to race from the back in these races, but that’s what we’ll do tomorrow in our Verizon Chevy.”

Andretti Autosport’s struggles continued on Friday. Alexander Rossi was the team’s top qualifier, in 14th position. Ryan Hunter-Reay was next in 17th, with Carlos Munoz 19th, and Marco Andretti in 21st. The good news is that they all move up two starting spots after the penalties issued to Rahal and Newgarden.

The race distance is 82 laps, which is 200 miles around the 2.439-mile 14-turn road course. Power started from pole position last year and won the race, but has not won an IndyCar race since then. The 2014 series champion will look to end his 15-race winless streak, and build the momentum for his team heading into the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Coverage for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins at 3:30 PM ET on ABC.

Qualification Photos

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Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “We made some really good changes on the Verizon Chevy and I thought we had a chance to make it to the Firestone Fast Six. During that one lap when I went from P1 to P8, the car was very strong, but I got too close to a car and picked up a lot of understeer. Overall, I don’t believe what happened will affect the race tomorrow because we have a really good car. We’re looking forward to a strong start tomorrow.”

Helio Castroneves: “Obviously it’s disappointing. We kept having a problem with the brakes locking up. We’ll find the answer to that. We’re going to work really hard to get the hum by Verizon Chevy performing better for the race. It’s not impossible to race your way to the front and that’s what we’ll do.”

James Hinchcliffe: “I’m really happy with the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car. You saw how close the times were in practice. Missing by a fraction of a second makes such a difference, so credit to everyone in the Firestone Fast Six – it was just the guys who nailed the lap. It’s so easy to make a mistake at this place and there are so many very inviting corners to just overdo it a little bit, but it’s such a dream to drive this thing on a brand new set of sticker reds, for that one lap anyway.”

JR Hildebrand: “Qualifying was kind of frustrating. We’ve been chasing it a little bit this weekend, and it’s all just so close. It’s a little bit from me and a little bit from the car, it goes a long way. We didn’t get enough out of that combined to be able to transfer. For us, we can have a look at what Josef’s doing, which is a little bit different from what we were doing. We’ll be able to gain some idea on where we need to improve for tomorrow. The race in a lot of ways is a whole different ballgame. Last year we played it smart and got through a lot of the mess down in Turn 1 and because we had made the car a little bit better and figured a few things out we were running in the top five for a lot of the day. It’s about being smart tomorrow, but also being a little aggressive and being willing to gamble with the strategy to leapfrog up a few spots.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the team did a good job putting the No. 7 DOOM and SMP Racing car into the second round of qualifying. It was progress for us and P11 is a good place to start from. It’s going to be a long race and I’m confident that we can score some good points.”

Max Chilton: “It was amazingly close like we were expecting. It’s just typical that we’re just on the wrong side. We did the same time as Montoya, but he did it before me. And to be fair, I got lucky at Barber like that. I did the same time as Aleshin at Barber, but because I did it before him, I got through. So it’s really close. It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it through, but the good thing is that’s the closest I’ve been to the leaders in those sessions in qualifying this year so we’re definitely making progress. Hopefully we can get through Turn 1 cleaner than we did at Barber because Chip Ganassi Racing and Gallagher always give me a good car to race with.”

Scott Dixon: “We are starting ninth, but I kind of made a mistake. As the No. 22 was backing up trying to get a clear track, as you always do, I was backing up into the No. 2 so I had to go and then I went off in Turn 12. Then I had to get behind the 2 and Power, and then those two were jostling and the No. 12 went off and then came back on in front of me. It was just a mess. We just never got a time in. The car has been fast – we were second quickest in Q1. On the blacks in the first part of Q2 we were second as well (first on black tires) and then we just didn’t get a lap. Plain and simple – the Target car is fast but we didn’t get a lap in.”

Tony Kanaan: “Great team effort today. I made a mistake on my last lap, and I think we could have made it to the Firestone Fast Six…When you are trying at the limit like that, it’s tough. It was such a close qualifying session…half a tenth puts me back in sixth place instead of seventh so it was a great effort. We struggled all day yesterday so a great comeback from all the team on fixing what needed to be fixed.  As a team we put three cars in the top 10 and one on the Firestone Fast Six. It’s a big track, we can win from there.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a strange qualifying session for the Europa – KVSH Racing team. The first round went pretty well, but I’m not quite sure what happened in Q2. I couldn’t make any lap time on the reds (alternate tire). The car was very numb. It’s back to that situation where we can’t control the reds. It’s frustrating because everybody on the team is working hard. It looked like we were in it (going to advance to the Firestone Fast Six) and now I am not sure what to attribute the problem to. We will to do our best to understand the problem, regroup for tomorrow and hope for a good race in what will be very different conditions. It is going to be cool, overcast and windy, so we’ll see what happens.”

Will Power: “We were great in practice and I messed up in qualifying. Again. It seems like it’s every week now. It’s getting pretty frustrating. It’s difficult to race from the back in these races, but that’s what we’ll do tomorrow in our Verizon Chevy.”

Takuma Sato: “It was a tough qualifying session. After making good progress in the morning from yesterday, we thought we had a good balance but going into qualifying, it was a dramatic difference in terms of the balance. We just struggled – a lot. We couldn’t get the speed right – we failed. Hopefully we find something tonight and come back strong tomorrow.”

Spencer Pigot: “We had good potential after practice.  Everything felt good but just didn’t really maximize it on the red tires. I think we have a really good race car.  I will try and stay out of trouble tomorrow on the first corner and pick them off as we can.  It’s good to have a teammate, especially one as quick as Graham is so I have a lot of great data to look at and we can compare notes about setup differences.  The great thing about having a teammate is that we can help each other.”

Conor Daly: “I don’t know why we’re that far back. I thought we’d be a lot better. It’s a shame. I think some of our issues in practice followed us into qualifying, but it’s a long race here and there are lots of opportunities for overtaking. We’re just going to go out and do what we always do and just try and fight forward. Everyone is dealing with the same thing, everyone is fighting for inches and we just haven’t found enough of them yet. We’re looking for two tenths every time. We need to work on our qualifying effort and I need to do that too. A lot of it is on me in this case, I still have to figure out these reds on Lap 1.”

Gabby Chaves: “We made a lot of changes overnight and it didn’t work this morning, so we kind of started from scratch in qualifying but we didn’t make enough progress. We just have to keep working at it. It will be important to try and stay out of trouble tomorrow, especially on the first lap and try to see if we can get a good pit strategy going, and if we can dial the car in so it can be quick over the race it would be good. It’s just so close that when you’re just a few tenths off and looking for a little bit it makes a huge difference and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Josef Newgarden: “Fifth in qualifying here for the GP of Indy is good. They are two different events here with the GP and the 500 but it’s still nice to start this first weekend off good and then we’ll just kind of settle in on oval mode after we get done with this GP of Indy race. It’s a good start for us. We’ll try to keep the form up all month. Hoping we can have a good, clean start. I got punted here last year in Turn 1. That’s just kind of how this race works. It accordions into Turn 1 and I got the bad end of that last year and nearly went down a lap and struggled all race, so if we can get through Turn 1 clean, then I think we’re going to have a pretty good day tomorrow.”

Simon Pagenaud: “It’s pretty fun right now, let me tell you. I’m just very thankful for the opportunity with Team Penske. They give me the best car. It’s my job after that to do the best job possible. Ben (Bretzman), my engineer, gives me a monster car every time I’m out there. The Firestone tires, not just to put sponsor names here, but the red tires on my car really works magically every time. Obviously the more you go into Q3, the more confidence you gain, then you can polish your driving on these kind of tires. Certainly it’s suiting me really well right now. I’m in a good zone. The whole team is executing really well. The 22 team, only our second year together, and it’s exactly the same people as last year. Consistency, like Roger would say, is key. We definitely made big improvements.”

Carlos Munoz: “It was a really bad qualifying, we just missed the balance on the (Firestone alternate) reds. In practice we were looking a little bit better than the result we did. We have to work hard but it’s a long race and we can overtake here. We’ll see what’s happening – we have to do lots of work for tomorrow.”

Marco Andretti: “I would have liked to have started higher on the grid – but if there’s anywhere to pass on a road course, it’s here at IMS. We aren’t giving up yet. We’ll have our work cut out for us in the Snapple car, but will fight the best we can.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We just lost the balance and maybe went with the wrong downforce for the higher track temps for qualifying midday compared to the beginning of the day. This morning we were P6, we just lost it with the wrong downforce level so will have to be smart with strategy tomorrow for the DHL car.”

Alex Tagliani: “It’s been a tough day for the team. Obviously we missed the setup on the red tires, but I think we can regroup from that. One of our teams has a good setup, and it’s working really well for them. I think we need to try to regroup tonight to see if we can get as good of a car as they have, then play a little bit of a strategy game tomorrow to get ourselves some position towards the end of the race.”

Jack Hawksworth: “Seems like an eternity since I’ve been in the Firestone Fast Six. Nice to be up here again. Great day for the team. We had a very good car on the new reds in the first group, seemed to work well in the second as well. Didn’t quite have enough at the end. But overall it was a really good day for us. We really needed it as well. Now we focus forward for the race, see what we can do.”

Matt Brabham: “Every lap I’m getting quicker and quicker and I still feel as though I haven’t got to the limit yet. The PIRTEK Team Murray crew is doing an excellent job – the guys are really pushing along well. I need to keep pushing myself along and work with the guys on moving forward together. It’s a special thing to have the No. 61 and the Brabham name on top of the pylon at Indy – even if for a short amount of time, it doesn’t get better than that.”

Charlie Kimball: “We made the race car better and better, and we didn’t focus too much on qualifying. So I think we have a good pace for tomorrow. Having finished fifth here the last two years, I’m looking forward to the race. It’s neat to be on the front row. Congrats to Simon (Pagenaud) for getting the pole. I think we would have had to have the perfect lap to be able to match his lap time. It looks like it’s pretty close to a track record. That’s pretty impressive. But coming through tomorrow with a clear track at IMS is pretty special. It means that there’s just one guy in front of me and 23 behind me, so we’re going to try and keep it that way all day.”

Alexander Rossi: “It’s really disappointing to be finished (qualifying) after Round 1. I thought we had a good shot today. It’s by far the best car I’ve had this year, so we have definitely made progress there. When you have four guys with the same lap time in front of you, it’s a pretty tight field. I’m disappointed in that one, but we made forward progress so we’ll carry that into tomorrow.”

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