Marco Andretti wins pole for IndyCar at Pocono

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Marco Andretti led an Andretti Autosport sweep of the front row for tomorrow’s Pocono IndyCar 400, once again topping the charts with a two-lap qualifying average of 221.377 miles per hour in the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet.

With his pole coming after he went P1 in both Thursday’s Open Test and this morning’s practice session, Andretti has staked his claim as the driver to beat in IndyCar’s return to the “Tricky Triangle.”

Joining Andretti on the front row will be teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay had a two-lap average of 220.892 mph, while Hinchcliffe averaged 220.431 mph on his run.

“Just an unbelievable team effort across the board,” Andretti told IndyCar Radio after securing his second pole position of the season. “I’m definitely happy for the RC guys and for Andretti Autosport as a whole. We’ve been making statement after statement, so it’s a good feeling.”

The team’s fourth driver, E.J. Viso, appeared poised to have the Andretti camp sweep the front four positions on the grid after a first qualifying lap at 219.9 miles per hour. But on his second lap, he lost control of his No. 5 CITGO-backed Chevrolet in Turn 1 and slammed into the wall. He got out of the car under his own power and was later checked and released from the infield care center.

It is not yet known whether Viso will have to go to a backup car after the incident.

“I was starting my second qualifying lap and…the rear of the car stepped out,” Viso told IndyCar Radio afterwards. “I controlled it for a little bit but then it stepped out again and that second time, there was nothing I could do.

“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and I believe we have a good car. Unfortunately, the guys and my crew will have to work pretty hard putting that car together for tomorrow.”

Alex Tagliani, the final qualifier of the afternoon, also crashed in Turn 1 during his first qualifying lap in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda. He has also been checked and released from the infield care center.

The second row will be made up of Team Penske’s Will Power, Triple Crown contender Tony Kanaan, and points leader Helio Castroneves, who holds a nine-point lead over Hunter-Reay in the championship going into tomorrow’s race. Scott Dixon qualified on the inside of Row 3 alongside Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud, but will have to drop back 10 spots due to an unapproved engine change.

Ryan Briscoe of Panther Racing did not practice or qualify this afternoon in the No. 4 National Guard Chevy due to commitments with his full-time American Le Mans Series program at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. As a result, he’ll start 24th, last on the grid tomorrow.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.