Castroneves wins MAVTV 500 pole
Helio Castroneves has won pole position for tomorrow evening's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. With a lap of 218.540 miles per hour, the driver of the #3 AAA Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet bested teammate Juan Pablo Montoya by a tenth of a second to score his 41st career pole.
Sarah Fisher Hartman's Racing Josef Newgarden completes the front row as the fastest Honda in the field.
Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power struggled mightily, qualifying 21st.
"It ain't over; it's just beginning," said Castroneves, who earned his third pole of the season and third since 2003 at Auto Club Speedway. "Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles and finish where we started."
Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, qualified a season-low 21st with a two-lap average of 212.604 mph. Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, the third driver eligible for the championship, qualified 13th at 215.752 mph.
"With the starting position, I'd rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early on," Power said. "It's obviously all about the race; it's very long and we'll be racing in different conditions."
Power earned the pole for the October 2013 race at Auto Club Speedway with an average speed of 220.775 mph - a two-lap track record - and went on to win for the first time on a superspeedway.
Team owner Roger Penske is aiming for his 13th Indy car championship since 1977 with Tom Sneva and the first since 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.
"I always tell our guys if one driver wins the team wins," Penske said. "We got here because it was a team effort."
Track temps today were approximately 144 0F at the start of qualifying which really made it tough for the drivers to execute two consecutive fast laps. The race tomorrow night will be a different set of conditions as the air and track temps drop throughout the race. With a Driver’s Championship on the line it will be another exciting finish to the race and to the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Final practice for tomorrow evening’s race gets underway at 7:15 p.m. local time.
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yes! That's exactly what we needed to start this weekend. The Auto Club Chevy guys did a great job today and winning the Verizon Pole Award feels fantastic. I really have to thank my guys and Will (Power) and Juan Pablo (Montoya). Going out last (in qualifying) really helped because I was able to get my teammates' feedback and we made some changes that really helped us get the pole. Now, we need to keep going. We are starting up front but it is a long race and we know what we need to do to make it happen. This is the first step. Now we need to make sure we end up where we start tomorrow night."
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "That obviously isn't what I wanted. I have been struggling to get up to speed on this track even with the test this week. Hopefully I can stay out of trouble tomorrow night and stay in the race until the end. It is a long race so anything can happen. It would be good to have a good result tomorrow since it is the last race of the season and we can feel good going into the winter."
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda): "The conditions were incredibly hot during qualifying today, which made the qualifying runs really challenging. This is another 500-mile race, and we saw in May at Indianapolis that qualifying in a race that long really doesn't mean much. I was pushing as hard as I could to get the best lap possible, but we were slowed down dramatically by the heat of the day. We know we have a good car, so I'm looking forward to getting out there tomorrow night to see what we can do."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): "We didn't really focus on qualifying. The focus was to be really good in the race and we were really strong here on Wednesday in practice so I feel good. I feel like we have a car to go forward, to fight for the win. Whatever happens in qualifying is not that important. We've seen it last year. You know, we had an issue when we were a lap down after two laps and came right back up to fourth after two stints so I think it's very much, a very interesting track for passing and I'm looking forward to it."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers KV AFS Chevrolet): "We have been struggling to find pace and balance since this morning's practice and so that hurt us today in qualifying. The good news is I feel a lot more comfortable with the direction we are going for the race tomorrow and we will have more time to focus on that again tonight. I look forward to having a good final race tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "There could have been a much better qualifying. It was as bad as it could possibly go. I mean just, you know, at the end of the day we were just too loose. I think the starting position, I'd rather have is either starting in the very front or in the very back. You know, just for the reason of staying out of trouble. Yeah, it's all about the race. Very long. We get one more practice tonight to see where we can get our car to work a bit better."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I feel that we have a really good Verizon Chevy. We really had it set up for race trim, so I wasn't expecting it to be that good for qualifying. But it was. It was really quick, especially for the hot conditions that we had to qualify in. We ran the same time that we ran this morning and it was much hotter. I'll be honest I didn't think that time would hold up that well. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the Verizon P1 Pole Award. It's going to be an interesting race tomorrow night."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "It's just so tough. We weren't sure going into qualifying which line to commit to - you kind of have to feel it out out there. We don't practice when it's this hot, and you don't get a lot of tires to practice these qualifying runs. I kind of did a low-line on one lap and high-line on the next, kind of split the difference. It's not great. Nobody's car is going to be great, maybe Helio's (Castroneves), his car looked pretty stupid in practice (haha). It is what it is; it's a 500-mile race. We're not too fussed about it, it's just really, really difficult conditions today."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): "It was a little bit of both (balance and speed issues) with qualifying today. Unfortunately, I went in and there was just no load on the front of the car going into (Turn) 1, so obviously we shot up the track. A little disappointed we missed the balance there, but I'm confident in our race car for tomorrow night. We'll just have to come from the back."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Our outright speed here at Fontana we're not really worried about, it's more about the race car here. Last year we started mid-pack and we were leading by the first stint, so hopefully we'll have a similar situation. I'm pretty happy with the balance of the car - we'll see how it is tonight, but qualifying was sort of a sideshow for us."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): "Today we had a little practice in the morning - just checking the car for qualifying. Qualifying didn't go as we expected it to; I had a little problem with the balance. We just need to find a little balance and hopefully tomorrow will be better."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We are always right there, but can't get the top spot and today was the day to do it. It's very hot nobody really knows what line to use, some are going high, some are going low and middle, and even changing throughout the run. If you look at our second lap it was so much quicker than our first. And I think our first lap would have been quicker if I did a better job with my line choice in Turn 1 and 2. It's always hindsight when you come in after a run and you think 'If I would have just done this different maybe we would have been sitting in a different spot and today I think we would. Judging off everyone else's performance I think we could have been a pole contender today, we just missed it. It's disappointing because our guys work hard and we had a great car."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Very happy but it was a quite challenging run to be honest. We saw a lot of faster cars from this morning struggling due to the track conditions. We had a little gusty wind typical for here plus the very high temperatures so tire grip management was key also. We weren't happy with this morning's set-up so my engineers and all the guys put everything together and did a fantastic job so I felt comfortable and confident through the out lap and to the first lap. The first lap was absolutely on the edge but on the second lap I had a little bit of a wiggle so there was a drop-off in the grip but I kept the good speed. Fourth and the second row was more than we expected so congratulations to all the ABC Supply guys. Hopefully we have a strong session tonight in preparation for tomorrow."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): "I think our run was good. In the practice earlier, our car struggled in the heat. But at night, the other night in the test, I felt our car was really strong compared to those I was around. It's hot here obviously for qualifying; everybody knows that the track temp is probably the hottest that we've seen. The wind was picking up and it made it tricky in Turns 1 and 2. And in Turns 3 and 4 it was pretty loose because the wind was on the nose (of the car). But our National Guard car is good. I thought the 17.0 (qualifying lap 1) was strong and on the second lap I had to lift too much in Turn 1 but I think at night we'll have a pretty good race car. We've just got to do well tomorrow. It’s not only the last race for us with the National Guard, it's also their last race in Indy car racing and we want to make them proud."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Well it wasn't the best qualifying effort we've had this season. The car just felt a bit loose and I wasn't able to correct it to get the No. 8 NTT DATA Chevrolet to the top of the pole. As a team, NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing is still really optimistic going into season finale tomorrow here in Fontana. You're only as good as your last race, so to end the season on a win would be awesome. We obviously have some things to work on tonight and in the last session, but I'm ready to race tomorrow night."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): "The No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet has been really good both in qualifying in the heat and sun and then also when it cools down in race trim. The team Chevy power has been really good here all week and I'm excited to see what we can do in the 500-mile race. I'm really happy with the fifth place qualifying result, but we still have a little work to do before tomorrow night to make sure we have the best race car possible."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "With this heat it's so tough on these tires and you can feel them going off in the first corner. If you start loose, it's only going to get more loose and with our situation we had a bit of understeer and I had to lift in Turn 2 on the exit. That definitely hurt our second lap but it looks like a lot of people are experiencing the same issues. Overall it's good to have the Target car starting up near the front."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): "We had a decent lap with the Target car and as soon as I got done I ran down to talk to Scott [Dixon] and Charlie [Kimball] to give them feedback before they did their laps. I think the higher line was the way to go but it is what it is. Like they say at these races its 500 miles and it honestly really doesn't matter where you start from."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "The main focus is to get the car where we want it so we can race well tomorrow, that is the main focus. The car was pretty decent on those laps. We were trying to go out and save the tires. It seemed like people were going out and peaking on their warm-up lap or on their first timed so I really took it easy on the warm up lap and tried to hit it on the first timed. Also, we saw people struggling on the lower line and we tried to stay high. The car was pretty good up there, you know, if we did it again maybe you sneak down there but it is a big risk. If you have to crack the throttle slightly you are going to lose a lot of time."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "Wow, I almost crashed on the first lap. Then really almost on the second lap. I had to get off the throttle badly in Turn 2. The track is just too hot for our setup. Something like 140 degrees. Much different from this morning's practice or tonight's practice. I got really loose on the first lap but I kept my foot in it and we ran 218.7. But the second lap was even worse for me. I thought we had a shot at the pole or the front row. But we added a little too much front wing since we were pushing in practice. We just went a little too far. Coming from 14th is not what I wanted for this race. Luckily, it is a 500-miler."
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