IndyCar: Juan Pablo Montoya edges Penske teammate Will Power for Pocono pole

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Juan Pablo Montoya scored a dramatic pole this afternoon in Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying at Pocono Raceway, leading a 1-2 run for Team Penske.

IndyCar championship leader Will Power appeared to have the pole wrapped up when he threw down a two-lap average of 223.725 miles per hour late in the session.

But on the final run, Montoya out-hustled the Australian with his two-lap average of 223.871 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. The run was good enough to set both one-lap (223.920, Lap 1) and two-lap track records at the Tricky Triangle.

“It’s a first step, but we’re going in the right direction,” Montoya told IndyCar Radio after earning the 15th career pole of his open-wheel career and the first since returning to IndyCar.

“It’s nice to be on pole, and now we need to start getting some wins…I think we’ve got a good car. We’ll see what it brings.”

Montoya’s efforts made sure that Power – who leads Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in the championship by 39 points going into tomorrow’s Pocono IndyCar 500 (Noon ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) – narrowly missed out on his third pole of the season

“I probably lifted a little bit too much in [Turn] 1, but I knew Montoya was going to be tough to beat,” Power said. “He ran a little bit more downforce, so since I wasn’t flat – yeah, I think he probably went wide-open.”

Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz was the only other driver outside Montoya and Power to have an average above the 223 mph mark. He turned in an average of 223.083 in his No. 34 Cinsay Honda.

Takuma Sato qualified fourth with an average of 222.798 mph that held the provisional pole until Power made his way onto the track.

Two more Andretti drivers, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, followed in fifth and sixth. Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and a pair of Ryans – Hunter-Reay, then Briscoe – settled in Positions 7-10.

One incident took place during qualifying as Josef Newgarden slid up the track and made contact with the wall in Turn 1.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT POCONO – QUALIFYING RESULTS
Qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, team-engine, and speed
1. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy, 223.871
2. (12) Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 223.725
3. (34) Carlos Munoz, Andretti-Honda, 223.083
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, 222.798
5. (25) Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, 222.715
6. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, 222.544
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 222.517
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy, 221.970
9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, 221.950
10. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, 221.565
11. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt-Honda, 221.547
12. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt-Honda, 221.221
13. (20) Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 221.019
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Rahal-Honda, 220.747
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy, 220.604
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 220.439
17. (83) Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, 220.377
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, 219.741
19. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, 218.502
20. (18) Carlos Huertas, Coyne-Honda, 216.261
21. (67) Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, No speed
22. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Herta-Honda, No speed

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.