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.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”