Marco Andretti wins Fontana pole
Will Power, who leads by 17 points, qualified third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car with an average speed of 215.940. He will, however, also receive a grid penalty for changing to a fresh Chevrolet engine (the entrant's sixth).
"Not a great qualifying run for us but it's a 500-mile race so really not that bummed about it," said Hunter-Reay, who has two short-oval victories this season but recorded his lowest qualifying position on an oval. "We just hadn't dialed our qualifying trim in with the DHL/Sun Drop car and that caught us out a bit. We missed the balance and (the car) took off on me a bit there at the exit. It was definitely hard to put a good two laps together.
"We've been focusing on the race though. That's the big thing."
"It means a lot with what we have been going through this year," said Andretti, who has one top-five finish through the first 14 races in the No. 26 Team RC Cola car. "It's just been a very trying year for me and my career. It's good for the confidence. But credit to the whole RC team and the whole Andretti Autosport team is just taking a huge step up this year."
Andretti, who followed Hunter-Reay in the qualifying order, had a two-lap average of 216.069 mph. He is not among the 14 drivers facing 10 spot grid penalties for unapproved engine changes.
Power, whose qualifying effort of 215.940 mph was a season best on an oval, will have the benefit of having teammate Ryan Briscoe (216.058 mph -- 0.0032 of a second behind Andretti over the two laps) starting on the front row. Briscoe, who also does not face a grid penalty, qualified for the front row for the fifth time this season.
"It's one of those races where you can be a half-lap down and come back to win the race," said Power, to which Hunter-Reay replied, "I agree; Will should start a half-lap back."
There are a myriad of scenarios in this championship duel -- the seventh consecutive year that the title will be decided in the season finale. For Power, the quickest path to his first series title is finish ahead of Hunter-Reay.
"It's a 500-mile race. We are focused on the things we can control," he said. "We are going to do what we can and see how it ends up. Just hang in there, just stay there and hopefully have a shot."
Rookie Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing qualified a oval season-high fourth and Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing qualified fifth. Alex Tagliani qualified sixth. All three will incur grid penalties.
"Coming into this race, we talked a lot about how I donâ€™t want a car thatâ€™s going to sit on pole," said Newgarden, who is the subject of the next episode of "INDYCAR 36" being taped this weekend. "I want a car thatâ€™s going to be comfortable, reliable and consistent for the entire race. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re working on. We want to have a good race car that can run a ton of laps. If we have that, then we can run up front and compete up front."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet, IZOD IndyCar Series pole award winner): "(Winning pole) means a lot. Just what we have been going through this year. Me in particular just been a very trying year for me and my career. It's good for the confidence, but we still got to get a race car under us tonight which I think we can do. But credit to the whole RC team, but the whole Andretti Autosport is just taking a huge step up this year. And let the best man win tomorrow." (About his season) "Toughest part of my career. It is inspiring me to work harder outside the track and work harder in the car and still try to see what I need in the set up to get me quick, because I am not going to be quick on these tracks. And a little bit of leading luck will help."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was very unpredictable. I was the first of my team's cars, too. Wind changes, the whole track changes. I had totally different balance to what I had all weekend. Yeah, I mean, man, I got hard limiter both laps down the back straight on a bump. Yup, starting grid. Sometimes I'm glad when I start on pole. Every time, if I start on pole, it's bad. Start back in the pack, it's great. Hopefully that's true here (laughter). So, yeah, it is what it is. It's a 500-mile race. It would have been nice to get the point. Yeah, we'll see tomorrow. Just hang in there, just stay there and hopefully have a shot." (About strategy for the race): "We are focused on the things we can control. Things are out of your control in the race. We are going to do what we can, and see how it ends up."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD TEAM PENSKE Chevrolet): "It was good. On my warm-up lap, I run the limiter up in turn three on that bump, so I went to the top gear which wasn't ideal. It was sort of dragging around the track, but I didn't hit the limiter. I went into qualifying saying there are two things I need to do. I need to be flat (full throttle), and I need to not be in the limiter. So I just went to the tall gear, and it was a bit sluggish. But the car was good. I was able to hold a pretty good line around the whole track. We just missed it. It is good. In a race like this, it doesn't matter where you start, but the prestige of pole is always something. It would have been nice."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We were pretty flat out, and maybe we could have trimmed out a little more. It was hard for us though because we couldn't come in too aggressive in qualifying after having an issue that caused us to miss practice. We weren't sure about the temperature and didn't want to risk too much. Coming into this race, we talked a lot about how I don't want a car that's going to sit on pole. I want a car that's going to be comfortable, reliable and consistent for the entire race. That's what we're working on. We want to have a good race car that can run a ton of laps. If we have that, then we can run up front and compete up front."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports): "The HP team made big improvements to the car from this morning to this afternoon. We went quicker and it's warmer. So, we made massive improvements. We are looking in the right direction. There is quite a bit of room for improvement, for sure, but I think we put our finger on what we needed. We'll do more work in practice tonight which will be the most important moment of the weekend, preparing the car for the race."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "After our warm-up lap of 214 (mph.), I thought we might have a shot to beat Marco's (Andretti) speed. But we built a little too much understeer in the car, and I had to lift in Turn 2. It is fun here though. I'm enjoying this track. I thought it would be bumpier than back in 2005 when we were here before. But it's smoother than Kentucky. The (chassis) package for this track is hard but I like it. It's a better package than what we ran at Texas. If we were going to race in conditions like this with the speed, it wouldn't be good. But the track will cool off for Saturday night's race. I think the fans will be happy with the racing for the 500. The track temperature was 140 degrees. That is hot. For the race, the track will cool down and produce a lot of grip for the cars. This track is tricky for everyone up and down the pit lane. Of all of the places we've run this year, I think there are more racing lanes here. You will see guys run on the white stripe and others up against the wall in the race. This will be my first 500-mile race other than Indy. I was thinking about going and talking to some of the guys who raced 500 miles here before. It's different than Indy. Indy is intense. But you have a 5/8-mile straight to take a breath. You don't get that luxury here. It will be a long night."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "We blew up the engine in practice this morning and we just weren't ready to go out for qualifying. It's a shame, because the team was here really late last night putting the engine in. But, that's racing. It is what it is."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We have to focus a little bit on everything this offseason. The team, myself and Honda all need to improve and get a bit more consistent. We'll have a busy winter here for everyone on the Target team trying to improve for next season. But any year you can win (the) Indy (500) and finish 1-2 is a good year. Today in qualifying the car just had a lot of oversteer in Turns 1 and 2 and I thought I was in the fence. The same thing happened this morning, and we thought we fixed it. It snapped way out of line and I managed to catch it but I had to lift and that was that."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It's a lot of fun running here at Auto Club Speedway both back in the Champ Car days and now back here in Indy cars. The formula that INDYCAR brought back here for this weekend is going to be fantastic and I think everyone here will get a little taste of it here tonight for practice under the lights. Tomorrow night the last half of the race will be awesome with cars running three or four different lines."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO | MOUSER ELECTRONICS - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I had a decent qualifying run. I am little concerned about the race. In my opinion the car is a little sketchy on the downforce that we have chosen for the race, but I respect IndyCar's decision on that and we will make the best out of it."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Team AFS Chevrolet): "The day started exactly like we wanted. We did a great job in both practice sessions. We qualified on the pole for Firestone Indy Lights, which was great. We want to end the season on a high note. We just need to continue working and improving the Indy car because tomorrow will be a long race. I don't see our INDYCAR qualifying being as important as Indy Lights is, since it will be so long. I believe jumping from one car to the other does mess with your head a little bit. I think I should have improved a little bit in the Indy car, but I am comfortable to bring the car home and focus on the race."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "The morning practice session was a little frustrating. We did very little running and we wanted to do a lot because we had many things we wanted to try that we carried over from the test in August but we just couldn't do it. Still I think we got everything together for qualifying and we are satisfied with the speed that we achieved which was the best we did in all of the laps, including the practice sessions and the test before. The conditions were not easy; very high temperatures and a little less grip overall. But I was reasonably happy with the balance so I could commit. There is still a lot of work to do in the final practice tonight."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet): "Qualifying did not go the way we expected. The speed we felt was a little bit better, especially what we had in practice. Conditions are very difficult for everybody; over 100 degrees. When you have to do an average speed (two laps of qualifying) is becoming very difficult. What happened is the first lap was a tremendous push in turn one. I adjusted myself in the second lap, and we were able to gain two mile-an-hour from one lap to another. It is what it is. We have a great car. The Auto Club of Southern California car is actually very fast during race conditions. We are looking forward to tomorrow."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC | EMBRASE - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I am happy with my result. We are obviously very lucky because so many drivers have got penalties so I have moved up some places. This morning, I had very little running as we were trying lots of things, so I ended up going blind into qualifying with a totally different car. But, I am happy. I think we have done okay and will now work on our race setup for tomorrow."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "On the run: "Not too bad-not great on the timesheets but it's not too uncomfortable. Obviously we're just trying to make small gains for tomorrow and work on race setup. That was the first time we'd given it full well with new tires. The winds had shifted a bit from this morning so the ends changed a little bit, so I struggled with being loose in 3 and a push at the other end. It was a bit of a battle out there in qualifying and we missed the gearing as well so we lost a bit of momentum on that second lap and it killed us."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "I'm pretty happy with the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen car. It was pretty quick. Especially when the sun goes down, that's what will really matter. With a 500-mile race, you can go front-to-back a few times, so it's more about the racecar than it is qualifying here. The temperature is going to be so different. When the sun goes down, it can drop 10 to 15 degrees and that's going to be a factor in tomorrow's race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "It's a great recovery today by the Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing team. Martin (Pare), our engineer, did a great job. The car wasn't very comfortable earlier today. We made a lot of improvements and made it a lot better. We qualified 11th, and that's not exactly where we want to be but we're pretty happy. We're going to keep working on this racecar and we'll go racing tomorrow."
Starting Lineup After Engine Change Penalties
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