Simon Pagenaud on Pole at Mid-Ohio

Another qualifying session, another Pole for Simon Pagenaud. The Team Penske driver earned his 6th pole position of the season, and will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday. He added another point to his lead (48 points) over Will Power in the championship, and the two will start alongside each other tomorrow, for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Four American drivers will follow the Team Penske front row at the start of tomorrow’s race. Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start in Row 2, and Row 3 belongs to former Mid-Ohio winners Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal. Helio Castroneves will start 7th, and the fourth Penske car of Juan Montoya joins him on the outside of Row 4. Rounding out the top ten starters in Row 5 are Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin.

Qualification Results for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

quals

The big story during Saturday’s qualifying was Scott Dixon. The Target Chip Ganassi driver has five wins at Mid-Ohio, and has finished in the top-five in 8 of the 9 races here. The one race where he missed the top-five, he finished in 7th. He will start 11th tomorrow, his second-worst qualifying performance at Mid-Ohio. The good news is his worst starting spot came in 2014, when he started 22nd and went on to win the race. It was a rough day for his teammate Tony Kanaan, who will start 14th on Sunday. In the 9 races at Mid-Ohio, Kanaan has never finished on the podium, and has only led a total of 13 laps, which came in the 2007 race.

Surprisingly enough, the pole sitter has only won 1 of the 9 IndyCar races since 2007 (Dixon, 2011). Pagenaud has been having a phenomenal season though, and certainly knows his way around Mid-Ohio. He has finished on the podium in 3 of the last 4 races here. It was a breath of fresh air for Hunter-Reay, but the rest of the Andretti Autosport team struggled once again. Alexander Rossi starts 12th, Carlos Munoz 15th, and Marco Andretti rolls off in 21st position tomorrow.

The race distance is 90 laps, which is 203.22 miles around the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course. Dixon won the Pole for last year’s race, and Rahal is the defending race winner.

Coverage for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at 2 PM ET on CNBC.

Qualification Photos via IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “The Hawk Performance Chevrolet was very strong today and we almost made it to the Firestone Fast Six. We would have had it not been for a few wet areas on the course, especially on Turn 4 and 5. But we’ll take our starting position and attempt to work our way to the front in tomorrow’s race.”

Helio Castroneves: “We just missed the final round by a little bit. We have to stop doing that. Seriously, the Hitachi Chevrolet felt good today. The guys give me a great car every week. They’re the best. It would be great to start a little closer to the front, but we’ll see how the yellows shake out tomorrow during the race. I’m excited and think we’ll be able to make some noise.”

James Hinchcliffe: “It was an entertaining qualifying session, if nothing else. We kind of pulled the short straw by being in Group 2 because the rain looked like it was coming so a lot of guys took two sets of reds during that first qualifying round. When we went out for the second round, the guys like me that went out on used reds to start were the quickest so it shows that the car had really good pace on used tires. If we had gotten into the Firestone Fast Six, that would’ve been a good sign for sure but we did our first run and ended up P1. The rain looked like it was coming. The guys from Group 1 in the first round had new tires and we really didn’t want to put a second run on our second set of reds. This is a red tire race so punishing the second set of reds for another run, it just didn’t feel right for tomorrow, so it knocked us down the grid a little bit but I think we have a better tire situation than some of the guys in front of us and we can capitalize on that tomorrow. I’m proud of the Arrow Electronics team and the effort this weekend, and we’re going to make it a good race.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the qualifying was not too bad for us. Both cars are in the top ten and for me, it’s definitely not a bad result based on where we started the practices yesterday. That was a difficult day for us and today we had good progress in the SMP Racing car. We finished 13th in the session before qualifying this morning and 10th in qualifying, so it’s good progress. We just need to continue going the same way in the race. We have good speed and the race is long so I’m sure we can have a good result.”

Max Chilton: “This morning we were looking pretty good with the Gallagher car. The track just changed so much from this morning. I went with Firestone red tires in both runs and we still couldn’t get through. I tried my best that last lap with everything I had and it wasn’t good enough. It was frustrating but considering where we started this morning without testing here, I’m happy.”

Scott Dixon: “We waved off our last run and we thought we were going to be safe where we were in the Target car. Obviously there at the end I said the track was getting faster on the radio and they didn’t hear me, so it was just a bit of miscommunication unfortunately. The times just picked up from there when it continued to dry out and that was it. The car has been fast all weekend so it’s disappointing not to get through, but we have a fast race car for tomorrow that’s for sure.”

Tony Kanaan: “We’ve been working hard and we’ve had a fast NTT Data Chevy so far this weekend. The car definitely has speed and we know it. I think we took a direction in qualifying and looking back the right direction would have been to take tires. It’s just one of those situations you learn and move on from. I’m confident we’ll have a strong car for the race tomorrow.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously not what the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team wanted or expected in qualifying. I lacked overall grip especially in the rear. Once again, we have a good car on black (primary) tires, but can’t seemed to figure out the red (alternate) tires. We will just have to hit the reset button and see what we can come up with for the race tomorrow.”

Will Power: “It was just like mayhem not knowing what tires to use, and everyone went out on reds so we went out and did one lap on blacks and came straight in for reds. It was just a mixed-up session, and it was tiring as hell because you had to run every single lap like — the Firestone Fast Six, I took a lap to take a breather. It was crazy. Good to start the Verizon Chevrolet on the front row. Going to be a pretty long day, 90 laps around this joint is tough. I’ll see what I can do.”

Takuma Sato: “I don’t know what to say. Everything was as planned. Looking at the lap times, the best lap should be on the third lap or fourth lap, especially for the beginning of the session, the track evolution was quite big. We planned to go to two sets of the reds which we haven’t done this for a long time but we thought we needed to after practice. There was no major issue we simply didn’t have the speed to transfer. The balance was good, the car felt good but the speed wasn’t there. There were no mistakes, no moments and it was a hard, solid lap and we still couldn’t make it. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we will figure something out.”

Graham Rahal: “I’m really pleased with the performance of the Steak ‘n Shake team. These guys never cease to amaze me and they did one heck of a job today. The weekend did not start off well, but they kept working hard. I’m pleased to be starting sixth. I started 13th last year so I have a lot less work to do. There are a lot of fast guys around us but I think we can out race them. It’s going to be a physical race. There is going to be a lot of tired guys out here tomorrow. It’s going to be a pretty hard race so hopefully that suits our team well. To be honest, we played our card and decided to run one set of reds (Firestone alternate tires) through three stints so that was a pretty old set of tires we ran at the end. Had we put the other set of reds on I think we could have gone considerably better, but we know from looking at strategy from last year that to have good reds is going to be key for the race, so we decided to keep a set fresh and not use them for more than one run. Group 2 (Rahal’s group) got a little hosed with the rain so we had to use two sets of reds in our group.”

Conor Daly: “For some reason, we had no grip on the red tires, I don’t know where it went. Our car has been good all weekend, we just failed in qualifying. It’s a shame because realistically, I think our car has been good. We made it hard for ourselves again but nothing is impossible, so we’ll see.”

RC Enerson: “(First time driving on Firestone alternate tires) Those red tires are crazy, they have a lot of grip compared to what I’m used to, I was just learning how to push it. I have to say I’m doing a little bit better than I thought I’d be doing so I’m surprising myself every single time, it’s a good feeling, and the team’s great to work with. We just need to keep pushing. I feel like we could’ve done a little bit better had we had four clear laps at the end, we kind of got caught up on the first three, so I just had to put it altogether on the last lap but I’m still happy with it. We have another practice in the morning so we’ll dial in the car a little bit, maybe try and run behind some people and see what the car is going to do but it will be important to hit my marks on pit stops and keep putting in some fast laps.”

Spencer Pigot: “Obviously today was a tough day. We need to figure out how we can improve qualifying. We at least want stay where we have been in practice instead of losing positions. We’re going to make that the goal for qualifying in Watkins Glen. For tomorrow, we’re going to focus on the race and see what we can do with a different strategy. We have good pace and I know the Fuzzy’s Vodka Rising Star Racing guys will give me good pit stops. I’m excited to see what we can do.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was really exciting, actually. I was nervous in the second round. We were debating new or used reds in the second group, no one really knew it what it was going to do. It looked like it was going to rain, then it didn’t, then it kind of did. We ended up going out on scuffs and I struggled, I couldn’t really get a good lap time on them. We came in and put on new tires and it started raining in Turn 4. I thought ‘Well, we just shot ourselves in the foot.’ The next lap it dried up and I got a good time and got in the Firestone Fast Six. We did a pretty decent job and ended up third. I feel good about where we are starting. That’s a good spot for us. We should try and challenge the two Penske guys (Simon Pagenaud and Will Power) for the whole race. They’ll be tough to beat. They’re really, really good around here on their tires. I think that’s what it’s going to take. Kind of like Barber, you have to have good longevity on your tires. That’s where we got beat in Barber, so we have got to work on that tomorrow morning. If we can do that, we should have a pretty good day with the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy.”

Simon Pagenaud: “I didn’t know about that (new track record). That is good. The PPG Chevrolet has been really good this weekend. It was more on me really because I have been struggling a little bit with my really bad lower back. They did a lot work on me. We didn’t need to do too much on the car, more on me this weekend. We put those Firestone red tires on and again, the car was beautiful. That was an interesting qualifying. The expectation of rain, no rain. There were some drops in Segment 2 that made it more difficult. And there at the end I think the strategy was perfect to start (the Firestone Fast Six segment). (A win) is exactly what we need to do for the championship. It is a long season, so if you can repeat wins like we were doing at the beginning of the season then it would be great to extend the gap. We’ve been just as competitive all year. It has been just an incredible year. A lot of fun for sure.”

Carlos Munoz: “A really tough day for sure, we were just missing something on the car set up. We have to concentrate for tomorrow. Everything that happens, there’s a chance of rain tomorrow so that can be a question for the race and what we do. We will just keep working.”

Marco Andretti: “We had too much understeer and we just keep tipping it over with turning the front wing. We can’t find the balance we need to get the speed. I don’t know… I guess it’s on me. It looks like I’m the common denominator, so I just need to do better in qualifying and keep pushing to get back up front.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had to work for it today. That was tough – to get that lap time out of the car. The engineering department did a great job making the right changes overnight. We found grip. That’s what it’s all about; we’ve been looking for it. It was rewarding today to be in the (Firestone) Fast Six and then actually compete for that front row. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow, but this is where we need to be. We’ve had a pole here before, we’ve been on the podium here a few times and this is one of our better tracks. Smiles here right now, but it’s back to work tomorrow.”

Jack Hawksworth: “Not a great session. The track got greasier in the afternoon and we just didn’t have the grip. We probably should have been out at the end of the session as well and pushed for an extra lap at the end. The track was getting better and better as the session went on and I think we could have gone a little bit quicker if we could have had another lap at the end. The track changed a lot, it changed an absolute ton for what we did for the car, we were expecting that the red tires were going to give it a lot more grip than they did. The track was really greasy so what we did was the opposite to where the track went basically.”

Charlie Kimball: “There was definitely a lot going on out there in qualifying. One of the challenges for us in Group 1 qualifying was going out on a green track. It took a long time for the grip to come in and the Firestone tires to start really working. A lot of people went with two sets of alternates in anticipation of the rain. I thought we might have shot ourselves in the foot a bit going out on used primary and alternate sets and running around tenth or 11th at the time. At the end, we took a set of sticker tires and ended up in the 64.40 second range which proved to work. Overall I’m happy with the effort and looking forward to a great race here tomorrow.”

Alexander Rossi: “It was positive to make it to Segment 2. Obviously, the first time we’ve done that all year so it’s something we need to be happy with. But then on the second run, we only had used (tires) and I think a lot of the guys we were going up against had new treads so that kind of sealed our fate a little bit. Then the rain started to come a bit and it was just hard to improve on where we were, but nonetheless it’s a step forward; still a long way to go from here.”

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