Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this morning’s qualifying for Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
NBCSN will air the qualifying rounds today at 2 p.m. ET, followed by LIVE coverage of Race 1 at 3 p.m. ET.
If you don’t want to know who won the pole until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…
Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner Simon Pagenaud’s lap of 59.3716 seconds was enough to earn the pole position for today’s first race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
Carrying over his strong speed from yesterday’s practice sessions (second in Practice 1, first in Practice 2), Pagenaud was able to out-hustle Helio Castroneves in the final moments of qualifying for his first career Verizon IndyCar Series pole.
“The car is awesome. Since yesterday, we’ve been top two in every session and now, pole position,” Pagenaud told IndyCar Radio. “My first pole position in IndyCar – we’ve been close but now it feels like the car is the fastest in the field today.
“[Today’s race is] going to be physical. It’s not as hot as yesterday right now, so it’s OK. But it’s certainly going to be a long race. You’ll have to keep your mind really clear and focused. But we have a great car, so that should make it easier on me.”
As for Castroneves, he’ll have clean track ahead of him to start as he seeks to erase the disastrous Houston weekend from last October that effectively cost him the 2013 series title.
“The Shell/Pennzoil car looks really strong right now,” said Castroneves, who split wins with Team Penske teammate Will Power in IndyCar’s most recent doubleheader at Detroit.
“It’s a shame we just missed [pole] by a bit, but it’s the way it is. It’s a great starting position for sure, and we’re looking forward.”
Scott Dixon will start on the inside of Row 2, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Luca Filippi alongside him after a stellar qualifying run in the No. 16 Honda. James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato will line up in Row 3.
In regards to the championship, Power – the current points leader – could be in for a tough afternoon. One of the top road/street course racers in the paddock, Power was unable to get out of the first round and will start 18th on the grid for today’s race.
Power currently leads the standings by 39 points over Castroneves and 60 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay, trying to break a string of bad results following his Indianapolis 500 win last month, will start eighth today with Justin Wilson in Row 4.
SHELL/PENNZOIL GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON – RACE 1
1. 77-Simon Pagenaud
2. 3-Helio Castroneves
3. 9-Scott Dixon
4. 16-Luca Filippi
5. 27-James Hinchcliffe
6. 14-Takuma Sato
7. 19-Justin Wilson
8. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
9. 11-Sebastien Bourdais
10. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 67-Josef Newgarden
13. 83-Charlie Kimball
14. 15-Graham Rahal
15. 8-Ryan Briscoe
16. 25-Marco Andretti
17. 20-Mike Conway
18. 12-Will Power
19. 18-Carlos Huertas
20. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
21. 98-Jack Hawksworth
22. 10-Tony Kanaan
23. 34-Carlos Munoz
NOTE: All drivers starting today’s race on alternate “red” Firestone tires except Saavedra.