Castroneves leads Penske top-three sweep in Pocono qualifying

Team Penske swept the top three positions in qualifications for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, but its fourth entry driven by Verizon IndyCar Series championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya will be in a decidedly more difficult position at the outset of the 200-lap race Aug. 23.

Helio Castroneves earned his fourth Verizon P1 Award of the season with a two-lap average speed of 220.530 mph (1 minute, 21.6217 seconds) on the 2.5-mile triangular oval in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet.

Castroneves bumped Simon Pagenaud (220.485 mph) in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet from the provisional pole. Earlier in the session, Will Power recorded a two-lap average speed of 220.398 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and will start third.

“I was able to collect some information from (Power and Pagenaud) and at the end of the day we’re strong, we’re solid and I can’t wait for the race,” said Castroneves, who secured his 45th career pole in his 310th Indy car start.

Montoya, who has won four of his 10 Indy car 500-mile race starts including the 2014 race at Pocono Raceway and the 2015 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race from the 15th starting position, will start 19th in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet after posting a two-lap average speed of 217.194 mph.

“You can’t really know what’s going to happen. We’ve done a really good job all year, like everybody else, had ups and downs, and we’ll see what it brings,” said Montoya, who set the track two-lap qualifying record of 223.871 mph in July 2014.

Montoya enters the race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a nine-point lead over Graham Rahal in the championship standings. Scott Dixon is in third place, followed by Castroneves and Power, the reigning series champion. Rahal qualified fifth (220.118 mph) in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dixon qualified 11th (218.969) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Ten drivers are mathematically eligible for the title, which will be decided Aug. 30 in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on the Sonoma Raceway road course. With the season finale carrying double points, a driver must leave Pocono within 104 points of the lead to remain eligible. It will mark the 10th consecutive season in which the title is decided in the finale.

The Pocono qualifying session was delayed 48 minutes for repairs to the catch fencing in Turn 3 after the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet driven by Charlie Kimball made contact with the SAFER Barrier and catch fencing on his first qualifying lap. Kimball was checked at the infield care center and cleared to drive. The backup car was being prepared to start from the last row in the race. Kimball had turned the fastest lap in the 90-minute morning practice.

Also, the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet driven by rookie Stefano Coletti that made contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier in the morning practice did not make a qualifying attempt and will start on the last row.

Qualifying results
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 220.530
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 220.485
3. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 220.398
4. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 220.141
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 220.118
6. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 219.831
7. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 219.685
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 219.672
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 219.578
10. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 219.521
11. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 218.969
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 218.816
13. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 218.596
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 218.331
15. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 218.246
16. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 218.152
17. (18) Pippa Mann, Honda, 217.372
18. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 217.241
19. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 217.194
20. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 216.401
21. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 216.315
22. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 215.101
23. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, no speed
24. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, no speed

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