Helio Castroneves on Pole at Road America

History was made today in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Helio Castroneves capped a dominating day for Team Penske, as he earned his 50th career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Brazilian put down an incredible lap, at 1:41.3007 seconds during the Firestone Fast Six. Today’s pole moves Castroneves past Bobby Unser for third on the all-time list. He now trails two icons in Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt for the most poles.

Roger Penske enjoyed what he saw on Saturday, as his four cars dominated the field, earning the top four positions for tomorrow’s race. Defending race winner Will Power starts alongside Castroneves on the front row. Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud follow in Row 2, while a pair of Honda aces, Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal, share Row 3.

Qualification Results for the Kohler Grand Prix

A few pleasant surprises on Saturday were Max Chilton, Marco Andretti, and Charlie Kimball. They will start tomorrow’s race inside the top-ten, along with James Hinchcliffe. Just missing out on the top-ten was Rookie sensation Ed Jones, in his No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Aside from Marco, it was a somewhat disappointing effort for the Andretti Autosport team, as Ryan Hunter-Reay starts 12th, Alexander Rossi 15th, and Takuma Sato 20th.

Perhaps no one was more disappointed though, than Tony Kanaan. While his three Ganassi teammates qualified inside the top-ten, Kanaan finds himself starting in 16th tomorrow. The Brazilian certainly wasn’t happy after qualifying ended, and believes there might be an issue with the setup of his No. 10 car.

Ed Carpenter Racing has struggled so far this weekend, and they will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. Spencer Pigot starts 14th, and JR Hildebrand qualified in 18th position. Mikhail Aleshin made it back to the track after getting his visa issues sorted out. Esteban Gutierrez is back in the No. 18 car, filling in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. The team announced earlier in the week that he will be behind the wheel for the rest of this season.

The race distance is 55 laps, which is 220.77 miles around the 4.014-mile 14-turn road course. Power is the defending race winner, and led 46 of the 50 laps last year after starting from pole position.

Coverage for the Kohler Grand Prix begins at 12:30 PM ET on NBCSN.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It’s a great day for the team. I think it’s Helio’s (Castroneves) 50th pole. Congratulations to him. We seemed to have missed it in the (Firestone) Fast Six. I was pretty happy with the car in Round 1 and Round 2, but on the new set of red Firestone (alternate) tires, in the Firestone Fast Six we had no grip. Not quite sure what happened there, but we tried. I feel like we have a very good race car. Not what I expected, quite frankly, thought we had a lot more pace. But I don’t know. The tires didn’t work. I wanted them to work. It did what it did. It’s a long race. Lots of time management tomorrow in the race so a lot can happen. We’ll see.”

Josef Newgarden: 
“You’d rather be surrounded by your teammates than other people you might not be able to trust as much. We’ll try to take care of each other as best as we can, then race each other. We’re still going to race, which is great. We’ve all been fast all weekend. We knew it was going to be tough to beat us top four. What is good, we’ve kind of had the top four spots with all of us all weekend. We wanted to make sure we continued that in qualifying and the race. Luckily, we didn’t really drop in performance, so that was good. I was happy for the whole group. Happy for Helio (Castroneves). I wanted to beat him, but I’m happy for him, getting his 50th pole. It’s good for the team. It’s good that we’re surrounded by people we know and can trust. We can work from there to try to win the race.”

Helio Castroneves: (About if he had a feeling going into qualifying that he could beat his teammates and competitors) “It’s interesting, because we knew we were ahead of the competitors. You guys heard me saying it two hours earlier, I’m not sure if they’re hiding, holding a little bit on the engine. So even through that, I didn’t know. As soon as the first session went out, we were in Group 2, we realize, ‘Okay, we’re still on the same direction.’ Then we just tried to set our plan in what to do, hopefully saving the best towards to the end. That’s exactly what we did. It worked out pretty well.”

Conor Daly: “Actually, the ABC car feels really good. I’m really happy with our balance that we had that session. We improved in a lot of areas corner-wise. But there’s some things that are definitely slowing us down, which is a shame, but we are going to evaluate everything we can and see if we can eliminate some things that are definitely holding us back. I don’t think we deserve to be this far back because I think the car is quite good right now and that’s the positive.”

Mikhail Aleshin: 
“The car balance was pretty good and the car was fine, but we were just lacking maximum speed all day compared to my teammate (James Hinchcliffe), who had the same setup. We’re not really sure what’s going on there, but we will take a deeper look and hopefully find something for tomorrow, which is the day that really matters the most. Either way, I am very happy to be back behind the steering wheel of the No. 7 Honda and back with this team.”

Max Chilton: “It’s a good comeback for the No. 8 since we only got three timed laps in the practice this morning. I naturally feel quick around here, so I think that’s the reason we got away with it. We improved the car as well. It was really close and I wanted to get into that (Firestone) Fast Six, but Scott (Dixon) picked me right at the end. It was a bit of a messy bump for me, but I had to bear it on the first lap because I ran wide, so then I had to save the tires and had one lap to do it because we didn’t have fuel for another. I was fairly happy with the lap I did – it was just off a bit.”

Scott Dixon: 
“The car was decent, especially in Round 1. When we went to the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in Round 2, there was a drastic difference in balance. So we’re not really sure, because when we went back to Round 1 tires from the reds, we tried to compensate and it was very loose. We definitely had a dud set, so we’ll need to try to find out why. It is going to be difficult at this place because we know the other manufacturer kit and we know exactly where we stand against it. We’re down a ton on downforce here if you try to run the same amount of drag.”

Tony Kanaan: “I’m obviously not very happy with how we qualified today. We just still haven’t been able to get it right on the setup and it really showed on our qualifying run. We have a lot to do tonight for sure before the race and I’m just hoping we can get it figured out by the morning warm up session.”

Will Power: “(It’s) definitely important to start up front. It will be an interesting race. If it’s all green, there will be a lot of fuel saved. Really happy to be on the front row. Obviously to be clipped by the old guy (Helio Castroneves) just there on the line – six one-hundredths. He gets faster as he gets older, like wine, matured. Good day for the team. Very, very good day. We just got to be good in the race tomorrow and collect some points.”

Carlos Munoz: 
“This has been our best qualifying on the (permanent) road courses this year. It’s very close and I think we could have done a little bit better. We were fighting to be in that top 12, that was the goal. We’ve made good progress but we just need to make a little bit more grip in the car. But the good thing here is if you have a good car, you can go forward.”

Graham Rahal: “I’m pleased that we got a good starting spot and pleased with how the GEHL car performed in qualifying. This team has worked awfully hard to get the No. 15 car a little further up there this weekend. It hasn’t come easy for us for sure. It’s been quite a challenge from a setup standpoint, but I’m proud to get in the top six, proud to take the fight to the Ganassi boys as well. We’ve been struggling with a loose condition in the car all weekend, so to make the top six was a great accomplishment for us. Obviously Penske is on a different planet, but we’ll take the fight to them tomorrow. I’m a race-minded guy and I didn’t want to use the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in Round 3. I think (Scott) Dixon did his second run on reds and I just wanted to keep them fresh. Do I think I could have gone in the two’s (1:42’s) on reds again? Yes, but I didn’t want to. I need those for the race and wanted to keep them in as good of shape as I can. We were in the top six, so we just wanted to get a lap in Round 3, more actually to learn for the race tomorrow than anything. We’re going to have to save some fuel in the race. I wish it was longer, like 60 laps, so it (length) would take the fuel mileage issue out of the window, but it’s not, so we will have to try to overcome that and get the fuel number that we can. The Honda seems fast every time now so if we can get the mileage, we should be pretty strong.”

Esteban Gutierrez: “This weekend has been very interesting for me with how the weather is influencing the car behavior. So, I’ve been working hard with the engineers to try and understand how we can be better. Obviously, this car, I find, is quite sensitive to every change that you do on the set up. I’m getting experience. I think it was a fair qualifying today for me. I would have liked to be much quicker than what I was today in qualifying but I’m working my way through to be better.”

Ed Jones: “It was a tough qualifying. It’s a lot cooler today than it was yesterday so that has changed a few things. I was struggling with bringing the tires in and so it took too long to get up to pace. I think we have some work to do for tomorrow, if not, we might struggle in the early laps. All in all, though, it’s still good to get through to the second round of qualifying and hopefully we can get into the top 10 tomorrow.”

Spencer Pigot: “We really wanted to get through to that next round of qualifying, I’m pretty frustrated not to. Even though we were close, it’s not really a consolation. We just didn’t take advantage of the red (Firestone alternate) tires quite as much as the other guys. We’ll see what we can do for tomorrow and try to make the car even faster for the race. I can’t thank the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys enough for everything they’ve been doing this weekend. We are getting there.”

JR Hildebrand: “Despite where we ended in qualifying, we made some major gains from where we have been at. It’s a little frustrating not to get that extra tenth and a half out of the car. That’s really all that we were missing to have transferred. Moving on to the second round of qualifying would have been a big win for us with how this weekend has gone so far. We can feel good about checking some boxes and now feeling more confident in the car, and also in my driving. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow. I think there’s going to be some fuel saving going on and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to avoid that with where we are starting. We’ll see how it shakes out, maybe we can work some magic. At least Spencer (Pigot) and I should have some racy cars tomorrow.”

Takuma Sato: “We had to change the car setup from practice before qualifying. We needed to change a few things out and the lap wasn’t really clean. It was a big step back, and unfortunately, we couldn’t make it into the (Firestone) Fast Six. The (teammates’) cars were somewhat competitive, so I think we will follow and then see what happens tomorrow in warmup.”

Marco Andretti: “Today, we were coming off a good test. We sort of just kept it going. I’m actually disappointed we didn’t make the (Firestone) Fast Six, but that’s a good thing. I think we’ve just been chipping away at it, and that’s what we have to do at this point. We sort of made the wrong change there, it would’ve been better if we didn’t touch the car, but it is what it is. It’s still only eighth, but I think here the Penske cars are in a league of their own. We need to do it when it counts more.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Not really sure what happened there in the second round. We were really strong in the first round of qualifying – especially on the alternate red set (of Firestone tires). We were really strong in the first round. Then the second round we went out on the alternate red set and don’t know what happened. We just had no front grip at all. Our main problem this whole weekend has been rear grip, and then that session it was front grip. Just missed it big time – not exactly sure why, but hopefully we can have a good race from 12th for the DHL team.”

Charlie Kimball: “I think we were a little happier with the car actually in the first qualifying round than we were in the second round. We just missed it a little bit. I went off on the primary tires at the beginning of the run, so I don’t know if that bent something on the car or if there was something else going on. We’ll go back and look at it. Obviously good job for Max (Chilton), he was so close, and Scott’s (Dixon) been fast all weekend. We have their data to go back and look at tonight to see what direction we need to go. We’ll make some improvements and try to figure out how to make the mileage, make the tires, and make the lap times.”

Alexander Rossi:
 “I’m not really sure what happened in qualifying. We were suffering from some issues this morning and I’m not sure if those were resolved or if our (qualifying) result was affected by those issues. It’s a bummer. We had a really good car yesterday and I think we had it in us to earn a higher starting position today. We’ll just have to push the NAPA car to the limit tomorrow and get the result we need.”


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