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
May 4, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Mann gets back to work behind the wheel and has a very good first day of running at IMS.
May 4, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
Early days yet, but seems as though Andretti Autosport is starting the month of May out on the right foot.
May 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT
The No. 90 Corvette DP pairing ends on top in Monterey.
May 3, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Day one of the month of May is in the books at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
May 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Could we see the Iranian Grand Prix join the F1 calendar in years to come?
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Lotus technical director Nick Chester expresses his confidence in the upcoming upgrade package for the E23 Hybrid car.
May 3, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT
A run through of new driver firesuits and liveries thus far on the first day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Ex-Force India driver di Resta picks up his first podium finish since returning to DTM in 2014.
May 3, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Indianapolis 500 practice is officially underway.
May 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Spanish rider wins on home soil as Valentino Rossi scores his 200th podium finish.
May 3, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
Conor Daly’s “Fueled by Bacon” No. 43 Smithfield Foods Honda is revealed.
May 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
The no. 19 crew fights back at Spa to finish sixth overall after six hours of racing.
May 3, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Venezuelan driver returns to the site of his only grand prix victory next weekend.
May 2, 2015, 8:57 PM EDT
Last-lap pass by co-driver Andrew Carbonell allows Sgt. Liam Dwyer to celebrate win with Sgt. Aaron Denning, the man who saved his life.
May 2, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Franzoni makes the leap into Pro Mazda.
May 2, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Red Bull driver speaks about the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which will play host to the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.
May 2, 2015, 3:31 PM EDT
Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer claim their second win of the WEC season at Spa.
May 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The former world champions may have fallen from grace, but Horner says that defeat is only motivating the team.
May 2, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT
Chevrolet takes wraps off its manufacturer super speedway aero kit.
May 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Grosjean has scored more points in the last two races then he did in all of 2014.
- Montoya fastest on opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice 1
- Indy 500 refresher running, RoP gets underway today at IMS 0
- Chevrolet reveals its super speedway aero kit 2
- ARCA driver Brad Smith recovering from ankle surgery after Talladega wreck 0
- 21 years after his death, the legacy of Ayrton Senna burns as brightly as ever 2
- Honda reveals its super speedway aero kit Thursday at IMS (VIDEO) 9
- Ed Carpenter talks Newgarden’s win and preparing for superspeedway aero kit at Indy 7