Munoz wins Texas pole

Carlos Munoz speeds to the pole
Carlos Munoz speeds to the pole. No sponsor, which is what happens with NBCSN TV Ratings

Carlos Munoz was devastated when he didn't win the historic 100th Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago. The Colombian was able to gain a little solace today by taking the Verizon P1 Award and will start from the pole position in Saturday's Firestone 600.

Driving the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, Munoz earned the first pole of his four-year Verizon IndyCar Series career with a two-lap qualifying average of 217.137 mph on the 1.455-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway. The 24-year-old's best qualifying effort in 45 previous starts was in his very first race, second at the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

"To be honest, I didn't expect that speed," Munoz said. "I thought we would do something around 216 mph, but I was happy with the speed we were doing. It's my first pole – I was looking at the (Verizon P1 Award) hat and it looks really nice. I'm really happy for all of my team after Indy."

Starting second in the race will be Scott Dixon, the 2015 Firestone 600 winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Dixon's two-lap average in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was 216.901 mph.

"The car was surprisingly good to drive," said Dixon, second in the point standings to Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud after eight of 16 races. "In these situations, you trim out a lot. You're on the edge and if you miss by a little bit, it can be a bit of a handful, but the balance is really good.
"It's nice to start at the front," Dixon added. "I don't think it's a really big deal where you qualify as long as you're up towards the front. But it's always great to be near the pointy end of the field."

All drivers posted a qualifying attempt except Gabby Chaves, who crashed the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda in morning practice and will start Saturday's 248-lap race at the rear of the grid.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Munoz was the fifth qualifier and had to wait nervously as Dixon, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and other standouts took their shots. Castroneves wound up third in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet at 216.740 mph.

"I like where we are starting and we hope to bring home a good result," said Castroneves, whose four Indy car wins at Texas are more than anyone.
Takuma Sato, in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda, actually posted a qualifying speed equal to Castroneves, but will start fourth because his two-lap time was 0.0001 of a second slower. It is Sato's best Texas qualifying effort in eight tries and the best for the Foyt team since Billy Boat started second and won the 1998 June race.

"Working with A.J., he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the 14 car," Sato said, "so we're very happy, especially since this is our home track."
Championship leader Simon Pagenaud qualified sixth and Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi was ninth.

Another Verizon IndyCar Series practice is scheduled for 7:45-8:15 p.m. ET today (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com ), the final on-track session before Saturday's race. Coverage of the Firestone 600, the ninth of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, begins at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

QUOTES

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Disappointed that we didn't qualify better today. For some reason our car was slow. We'll just have to look at things tonight and see what we can do to have better results tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "We're very happy with the qualifying results. And not surprised at all. The AAA Insurance Chevrolet team is the best and have worked really hard on this car. The warmth is really a challenge. Racing at night is another challenge after a practice and qualifying in the heat of the day. We all know that tire degradation is critical and trying to manage that is pretty difficult. I like where we are starting and we hope to bring home a good result."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "I think the race is going to be similar to what we've seen here the last couple of years. Firestone put together a package that falls off to make it a little more challenging for us, make the show a little bit better, stay away from pack racing, keep it safe. The onus is really on us as drivers and teams to make the setup as easy on tires as we can be. We need to be patient and not just go flat out at the drop of the green or the start of a stint. I think it's going to be a thinking-man's race tomorrow night. Strategy comes down to playing it as it unfolds. You can make a plan A, B, C, D and they're all out the window by lap one, turn one. We just need to focus on taking care of the car and tires. Unfortunately, we never really get to run in the track temperatures that we're going to be racing at. Even tonight's session is a little early for us, but it's the same for everyone so we just have to be smart about it and hopefully the Arrow car is going to be up front."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): "I think it's a great racetrack and it's one of my favorites. That's because there's not only one line, there are two lines here at least, maybe three. Maybe four if you're Russian. I'm going to use everything I can to be at the top because I think the team is competitive. We didn't hit any major mistakes with the car setup or from my side so I think at the moment, that's probably a good place to start with. I'm pretty happy that the car was much better than it was in the first session. The SMP Racing and DOOM car is going to be solid in the race, as always, and we'll just go from here."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Days like this you're just learning. It's all new. It's hot, there are gusts of wind and you are literally just learning as you go. There's not much practice time and I'm just trying to log as many laps as I can and soak up as much information as I can from my teammates."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Huge credit to the Target team. The car is fast and I'm excited. The amount of lanes you can use and the different configurations you can run here in Texas is really cool. I'm fairly happy with the qualifying run but we just missed by a little bit. The car was surprisingly good to drive. In these situations, you trim out a lot – you're on the edge and if you miss by a little bit it can be a bit of a handful. But the balance is really good. I thought the rear was sliding a little bit, which cost us a bit of speed. I moved the weight jacker a couple times and that was about it. It's nice to start at the front – I don't think it's a really big deal where you qualify as long as you're up towards the front. But it's always great to be near the pointy end of the field and congratulations to Andretti and (Carlos) Munoz for pulling off the pole."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "I wouldn't say I'm happy with where we ended up for qualifying today but I think it was a solid run considering how conservative we went with our setup. Even though we came out in first this morning, we had a pretty messy first practice session where we struggled to get a solid qualifying run in with all the traffic. We're in a decent starting spot for the race, so now we're turning all of our focus to tonight's practice. I think it's going to be a pretty fun session with everyone working on race trim and running in packs."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a tough qualifying session for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We didn't test here and we didn't have the tires or the time to do a qualifying simulation this morning. So we didn't really know what we had going into qualifying. The car was loose. I stayed in it, but the second lap was pretty dodgy. It's just difficult…no time, no tires. I think we are about where we are supposed to be with the amount of downforce we had on the car. Hopefully, things will be better when the track cools off. We are just going to have to try and make the best of the situation."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Not quite what we expected for the Verizon Chevy. We'll need to reset up some things for tomorrow so we can get better in traffic. Just needed to run a bit more down force. Hard to predict what do with the car and what to do in traffic because it can be different every year here."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "We had a sketchy morning but the guys did a great job to put everything together and I felt pretty comfortable. Working with A.J., he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the 14 car, so we're very happy especially since this is our home track. The race will be a very different scenario because everything will cool down and we'll have more downforce and more grip available. The car is in the ballpark and we have the final practice tonight to fine-tune the race setup."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack/RLL Honda): "I'm disappointed to start 13th. I thought the balance wasn't bad in qualifying and I thought the speed, when I saw it, wasn't bad based on last year. I didn't think that many guys would go that much quicker but let's focus on the race car and make it the best we can. I hate having to come from mid pack to challenge but we've got a lot of laps tomorrow night to do that. I only ran 10 laps this morning due to the gearbox issue and only ran one qualifying sim compared to others who did two or three but I thought the car felt pretty good. The guys did a great job to get the car fixed for qualifying."

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "We started on an island this morning, we were way off. I've never been here before and it was obviously tough for us to not have a little bit of experience coming here. We had to evaluate our set up. The cars are not kind to drive here. That was my first lap flat all around in qualifying. It's a long race, I just hate that we have to start in the back yet again. We'll see what happens."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It's been a frustrating day, I really didn't know what I had going into qualifying so I can't say I am disappointed with that. I was hoping to be able to run something in that range. The day hadn't gone as we wanted, even in the qualifying line the car didn't want to start. The first practice for us was just a nightmare, we had issues the whole time, both self-inflicted and out of our control."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "We did a good first lap, for some reason the car just dropped off on Lap 2. The car was great, no dramas from my end. The car handled really well, we just lost some speed there on the second lap. We're starting within the Top 5 so we're pretty happy with that. We should have a good car tomorrow night; we've worked hard on the Fuzzy's special."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet): "The balance and the handling of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy is good. I'm really happy with it. Qualifying is difficult here. We worked primarily on race trim earlier in practice and not a lot of qualifying stuff. Tire management is so important here, but it is fun to see who has the fast cars on new tires."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "To be honest I didn't expect that speed. I thought we would do something around 216 mph, but I was happy with the speed we were doing. It's my first (IndyCar career) pole – I was looking at the (Verizon P1) hat and it looks really nice! I'm really happy for all of my team after Indy and for everything, I have to thank everyone. It's a long race tomorrow and now we have to focus on that with practice tonight."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "We were hoping for a better starting positon for tomorrow's race, especially being in Snapple's hometown… But this is always a fun race here in Texas and we'll work on picking a line that will take up to the front."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "It's really hard to get the set up exactly as you need it. That's the worst part about (Texas Motor Speedway), just getting the car in that very small operating range. Every year it seems to get trickier too. The track surface seems to be a little bit rougher every year and just eats up those Firestones more and more. We'll see. We're going to try and have a good night tonight in practice and get the DHL car set up for tomorrow."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "The car was pretty loose and I thought if it was that loose then it would have been faster than it was because I was pretty much flat. It wasn't very quick and was really hard to drive so it was a difficult qualifying session."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "We're obviously disappointed with that run for the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet. We had a much faster car in that first practice session, so we're not exactly sure what happened in that run to make us so much slower. Where you qualify is definitely important here, but it's not the end all be all on any oval. Tonight's practice will be really important for everyone, but especially us since we'll be starting further back and will need to work harder to move through the field."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "The car was so good – It's really a shame to give away good positions because you don't have a radio. We weren't able to communicate with the timing stand to adjust the settings on the Castrol Edge car, so missed out on where we feel we should be on the grid. But I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow and working on moving up through the field."

Results

P No Name FTime Diff Gap FL Laps LapTime FSpeed Engine
1 26 Carlos Munoz 24.115 0.0001 0.0001 1 2 24.131 217.211 Honda
2 9 Scott Dixon 24.118 0.0030 0.0029 1 2 24.181 217.185 Chevy
3 3 Helio Castroneves 24.154 0.0396 0.0025 1 2 24.180 216.856 Chevy
4 14 Takuma Sato 24.152 0.0371 0.0208 1 2 24.183 216.878 Honda
5 21 Josef Newgarden 24.115 0.000 0.000 1 2 24.232 217.212 Chevy
6 22 Simon Pagenaud 24.158 0.0431 0.0035 1 2 24.194 216.824 Chevy
7 12 Will Power 24.131 0.0163 0.0133 1 2 24.224 217.065 Chevy
8 10 Tony Kanaan 24.205 0.0899 0.0188 1 2 24.229 216.405 Chevy
9 98 Alexander Rossi 24.185 0.0706 0.0275 1 2 24.256 216.578 Honda
10 5 James Hinchcliffe 24.213 0.0984 0.0085 1 2 24.228 216.329 Honda
11 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 24.186 0.0711 0.0005 1 2 24.256 216.573 Honda
12 27 Marco Andretti 24.228 0.1133 0.0149 1 2 24.236 216.196 Honda
13 15 Graham Rahal 24.248 0.1337 0.0132 1 2 24.268 216.014 Honda
14 20 Ed Carpenter 24.235 0.1205 0.0072 1 2 24.321 216.132 Chevy
15 83 Charlie Kimball 24.261 0.1460 0.0123 1 2 24.344 215.905 Chevy
16 7 Mikhail Aleshin 24.305 0.1903 0.0443 1 2 24.353 215.511 Honda
17 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 24.307 0.1925 0.0022 1 2 24.355 215.492 Chevy
18 11 Sebastien Bourdais 24.344 0.2294 0.0011 1 2 24.375 215.165 Chevy
19 8 Max Chilton 24.343 0.2283 0.0358 1 2 24.413 215.175 Chevy
20 41 Jack Hawksworth 24.408 0.2929 0.0635 1 2 24.416 214.605 Honda
21 18 Conor Daly 24.475 0.3606 0.0677 2 2 24.475 214.012 Honda

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