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

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.