Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
FONTANA, Calif. – The stage is set for an intriguing 500 miles in Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season finale. Helio Castroneves qualified on pole Friday and teammate and points leader Will Power struggled to 21st on the grid for the MAVTV500 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
Castroneves ran last in qualifying and following a 219.127 mph first lap and a dropoff to only 217.956 on the second, that was enough to secure the Brazilian his third Verizon P1 Award this year (he also has a fourth time starting first in Toronto Race 2, where qualifying was canceled due to weather and the grid set by owner points).
“It certainly helps, but it’s not everything,” he said. “It was pretty good but I didn’t do it just by myself.”
The pole position is the 41st of his career, breaking a tie with the legendary Rick Mears for fourth all-time.
Power, by contrast, ran 13th during the session and had a miserable first lap of 210.577 mph and was only able to improve to a 214.678 on Lap 2. That netted the second-worst average of 212.604 mph.
“Too loose,” he sighed immediately after the attempt.
With this outcome, Castroneves sits exactly 50 points behind Power. Castroneves could win the title with a win and Power finishing eighth or worse, before bonus points are factored in, or if he finishes second and Power ends 16th or worse. Castroneves can also win with third, but he’d need to win and hope Power fails to improve at all from his starting position.
Three additional bonus points are available – one for one lap led and two for the most laps led. If Castroneves maxes out the bonus points, he can still win the title with as low as a third place finish.
But either way, he needs a top-three and help heading into Saturday.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who was second out to qualify, starts in the same position after holding down the pole for the majority of the session.
“The way we had it set up for race trim wasn’t as good for qualifying, so we were a little bit off,” he said. “But we ran the same time as this morning, which was 30 degrees warmer. I don’t think it’ll be a pole. I’ve been coming to NASCAR races here for seven years. For seven years it’s been the same, it’s bad.”
In third and rounding out the front row for the three-wide start is Josef Newgarden, who was the highest qualifying Honda-powered entry for the fourth consecutive race. Newgarden was actually frustrated with his speed as he felt he missed it on the first lap, and made a massive gain in the second.
“We’re always right there but can’t get the top spot,” he said. “Today was the perfect day to do it. No one knows what line to use. Guys going high, low, middle throughout their run. If the game plan was right, you could hoodwink people.
“Our first lap could have been way quicker with a better line choice in 1 and 2. Judging off everyone’s performance, I think we could have been pole today.”
Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball are on Row 2. Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal round out the top 10.
Pagenaud, who remains mathematically eligible for the championship, will start 13th next to Ed Carpenter in P14.
Final practice runs from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. PT and local time.
FONTANA, Calif. – Qualifying Friday for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 218.540
2. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 217.621
3. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 217.600
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 217.323
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 217.057
6. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 217.017
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 216.857
8. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 216.726
9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 216.305
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 216.299
11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 215.898
12. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 215.878
13. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 215.752
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 215.326
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 214.713
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 214.486
17. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 214.173
18. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 214.109
19. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 213.991
20. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 213.981
21. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 212.604
22. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 202.319
Sep 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Kyle Busch. Joey Logano. Kyle Larson. You may soon add Ben Rhodes to the list of young phenom drivers that have gone on to stardom in the Sprint Cup Series.
Sep 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
“…We’re looking for just that little sliver of speed to get back to a dominant position.” – Johnson
Sep 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Finishing P1 not enough for the Briton following his Friday running in Singapore.
Sep 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
“I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long.” – Larson
Sep 19, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
German driver rallies to finish in the top five in both sessions despite an engine failure.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Already in the Contender Round for the Chase, Keselowski gets his weekend at New Hampshire off to a good start.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
German driver feeling comfortable ahead of qualifying in Singapore tomorrow.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
IndyCars get their first postseason running with Firestone tire test next week.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
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Sep 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
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Sep 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
One of the most controversial F1 rulings in history could be scrapped after just one season.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
A red flag for Pastor Maldonado stops Nico Rosberg from posting a quick lap time, forcing him to settle for P12 at the finish.
Sep 19, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Belardi Auto Racing confirms its first Indy Lights driver for 2015.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
Can Fernando Alonso double up to top FP2? Or will Mercedes rise to the top as night falls in Singapore?
Sep 19, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Who will star under the lights in Singapore? The MST writing team has its say.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Will Buxton brings you the latest news and interviews from the paddock in Singapore.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:33 AM EDT
First blood goes to Ferrari in Singapore as Vettel and Vergne hit trouble.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT
Teams put pressure on F1’s governing body to perform u-turn on the planned radio limits.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:45 AM EDT
FP1 offers the first chance for drivers to get to grips with the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the 2014 cars. Watch live on Live Extra from 6am ET.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT
While Boris Said was getting ready for this weekend’s IMSA Tudor Championship event at Circuit of the America’s in Austin, Texas, it’s noteworthy to mention that Thursday was his 52nd birthday.
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