Pole for Pagenaud; Dixon starts seventh

| Photographer Credit: IndyCar Series

Simon Pagenaud’s bright new car paint scheme didn’t slow his torrid run to start the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Driving the fluorescent yellow No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet for the first time this season, Pagenaud won the Verizon P1 Award for pole position in qualifying for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Scott Dixon, who trails Pagenaud by 48 points for the championship lead, will start seventh in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“We are starting ninth (amended to seventh post scrutineering*) , but I kind of made a mistake,” commented Dixon. “As the No. 22 was backing up trying to get a clear track, as you always do, I was backing up into the No. 2 so I had to go and then I went off in Turn 12. Then I had to get behind the 2 and Power, and then those two were jostling and the No. 12 went off and then came back on in front of me.

“It was just a mess. We just never got a time in. The car has been fast – we were second quickest in Q1. On the blacks in the first part of Q2 we were second as well (first on black tires) and then we just didn’t get a lap. Plain and simple – the Target car is fast but we didn’t get a lap in.”

Results amended INDYCAR has penalized two cars for failing post-qualifying technical inspection for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing car of Graham Rahal and the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing car of Josef Newgarden were cited for violation of Rule of the Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book for minimum car weight.

According to the rule, a car must weigh a minimum of 1,610 pounds on road/street courses and short ovals, inclusive of all lubricants, coolants and camera or dummy camera housings.

Both cars had their qualifying times from today voided and will start from the rear of the field in Saturday’s race based on entrant points entering the event. The No. 15 car will start 24th and the No. 21 car will start 25th.

Winner of the most recent two races this season, Pagenaud notched his second straight pole of 2016 and fourth of his career with a lap of 1 minute, 8.6868 seconds (127.832 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six – the last of three rounds of knockout qualifying. He will lead the 25-car field to the green flag in Saturday’s 82-lap race on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in racing,” said Pagenaud, who hasn’t finished lower than second in the first four races this season. The 31-year-old Frenchman is in his second year with Team Penske and seventh overall racing Indy cars.

“I’m driving the best I’ve driven, ever,” Pagenaud added. “Little by little, you get confidence with success. Team Penske, they give me the best car. If I drive it well, you should expect to be up there. To be up there so often is certainly the best feeling in the world.”

Charlie Kimball, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, will start next to Pagenaud on Row 1 following a career-best qualifying effort. Kimball’s lap in the Firestone Fast Six was 1:08.9816 (127.286 mph).

“We made the race car better and better and we didn’t focus too much on qualifying, so I think we have a good pace for tomorrow,” Kimball said. “Having finished fifth here the last two years, I’m looking forward to the race. It’s neat to be on the front row.

“Congrats to Simon for getting the pole. I think we would have had to have the perfect lap to be able to match his lap time.”

Pagenaud won races last month on the streets of Long Beach, Calif., and the Barber Motorsports Park road course in Birmingham, Ala., leading up to this epic month of May at Indianapolis that includes the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29. He is the only driver to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six in all four road/street-course events this season.

“It’s not that simple, it’s a lot of work in the background,” said Pagenaud, who won the first Angie’s List Grand Prix in 2014 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.” I just want to take my hat off to my engineer, Ben Bretzman, for giving me a monster car every time. It’s a lot of fun for me right now, the whole team is functioning so well. The decision process from (strategist) Kyle Moyer to do one lap each segment was all him. It’s really a team sport.”

Will Power, Pagenaud’s teammate at Team Penske, set the track record in Segment 1 of qualifying with a lap of 1:08.6746. It broke Power’s own record set last year by more than eight-tenths of a second, but the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske failed to advance from Segment 2 to the Firestone Fast Six and will start the race in the 12th spot.

“We were great in practice and I messed up in qualifying (brushing the wall), again” said Power, who won the 2015 race from the pole. “It seems like it’s every week now. It’s getting pretty frustrating. It’s difficult to race from the back in these races, but that’s what we’ll do tomorrow in our Verizon Chevy.”

Row 2 is filled by Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda (1:09.1816, 126.918 mph) and James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (a season-best start with a time of 1:09.2260, 126.837 mph).

Josef Newgarden, in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevy (1:09.4316, 126.461 mph), and Jack Hawksworth, in the No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (1:09.5141, 126.311 mph) make up the third row. The first six starting positions are split evenly between manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet.

Qualifying results – amended
1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:08.6868 (127.832)
2. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:08.9816 (127.286)
3. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:09.2260 (126.837)
4. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:09.5141 (126.311)
5. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:09.2511 (126.791)
6. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:09.2645 (126.766)
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:09.4010 (126.517)
8. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:09.4436 (126.439)
9. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:09.6771 (126.016)
10. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:09.9297 (125.560)
11. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:09.3289 (126.648)
12. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:09.1475 (126.981)
13. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:09.4947 (126.346)
14. (61) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 01:09.2944 (126.712)
15. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:09.5276 (126.287)
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:09.4377 (126.450)
17. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:09.6457 (126.072)
18. (16) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 01:09.4591 (126.411)
19. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:09.7478 (125.888)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:09.4659 (126.399)
21. (35) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 01:10.4109 (124.702)
22. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:09.4795 (126.374)
23. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:09.7720 (125.844)
24. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, No time
25. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, No time

*Note: Times for Rahal and Newgarden were disallowed for violating Rule (Minimum car weight)

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


Related Stories

Join in the conversation!