Lineup set for today’s Shell/Pennzoil GP of Houston Race 1 (SPOILER)

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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
Starting Grid
Row 1
1. 77-Simon Pagenaud
2. 3-Helio Castroneves
Row 2
3. 9-Scott Dixon
4. 16-Luca Filippi
Row 3
5. 27-James Hinchcliffe
6. 14-Takuma Sato
Row 4
7. 19-Justin Wilson
8. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
Row 5
9. 11-Sebastien Bourdais
10. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
Row 6
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 67-Josef Newgarden
Row 7
13. 83-Charlie Kimball
14. 15-Graham Rahal
Row 8
15. 8-Ryan Briscoe
16. 25-Marco Andretti
Row 9
17. 20-Mike Conway
18. 12-Will Power
Row 10
19. 18-Carlos Huertas
20. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
Row 11
21. 98-Jack Hawksworth
22. 10-Tony Kanaan
Row 12
23. 34-Carlos Munoz

NOTE: All drivers starting today’s race on alternate “red” Firestone tires except Saavedra.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III