Castroneves secures crucial MAVTV 500 pole; Power starts P21 for IndyCar finale (VIDEO)

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FONTANA, Calif. – The stage is set for an intriguing 500 miles in Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season finale. Helio Castroneves qualified on pole Friday and teammate and points leader Will Power struggled to 21st on the grid for the MAVTV500 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Castroneves ran last in qualifying and following a 219.127 mph first lap and a dropoff to only 217.956 on the second, that was enough to secure the Brazilian his third Verizon P1 Award this year (he also has a fourth time starting first in Toronto Race 2, where qualifying was canceled due to weather and the grid set by owner points).

“It certainly helps, but it’s not everything,” he said. “It was pretty good but I didn’t do it just by myself.”

The pole position is the 41st of his career, breaking a tie with the legendary Rick Mears for fourth all-time.

Power, by contrast, ran 13th during the session and had a miserable first lap of 210.577 mph and was only able to improve to a 214.678 on Lap 2. That netted the second-worst average of 212.604 mph.

“Too loose,” he sighed immediately after the attempt.

With this outcome, Castroneves sits exactly 50 points behind Power. Castroneves could win the title with a win and Power finishing eighth or worse, before bonus points are factored in, or if he finishes second and Power ends 16th or worse. Castroneves can also win with third, but he’d need to win and hope Power fails to improve at all from his starting position.

Three additional bonus points are available – one for one lap led and two for the most laps led. If Castroneves maxes out the bonus points, he can still win the title with as low as a third place finish.

But either way, he needs a top-three and help heading into Saturday.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who was second out to qualify, starts in the same position after holding down the pole for the majority of the session.

“The way we had it set up for race trim wasn’t as good for qualifying, so we were a little bit off,” he said. “But we ran the same time as this morning, which was 30 degrees warmer. I don’t think it’ll be a pole. I’ve been coming to NASCAR races here for seven years. For seven years it’s been the same, it’s bad.”

In third and rounding out the front row for the three-wide start is Josef Newgarden, who was the highest qualifying Honda-powered entry for the fourth consecutive race. Newgarden was actually frustrated with his speed as he felt he missed it on the first lap, and made a massive gain in the second.

“We’re always right there but can’t get the top spot,” he said. “Today was the perfect day to do it. No one knows what line to use. Guys going high, low, middle throughout their run. If the game plan was right, you could hoodwink people.

“Our first lap could have been way quicker with a better line choice in 1 and 2. Judging off everyone’s performance, I think we could have been pole today.”

Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball are on Row 2. Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal round out the top 10.

Pagenaud, who remains mathematically eligible for the championship, will start 13th next to Ed Carpenter in P14.

Final practice runs from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. PT and local time.

FONTANA, Calif. – Qualifying Friday for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 218.540
2. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 217.621
3. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 217.600
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 217.323
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 217.057
6. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 217.017
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 216.857
8. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 216.726
9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 216.305
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 216.299
11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 215.898
12. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 215.878
13. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 215.752
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 215.326
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 214.713
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 214.486
17. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 214.173
18. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 214.109
19. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 213.991
20. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 213.981
21. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 212.604
22. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 202.319

NHRA: Force power — Courtney, Brittany — dominates 1st day of qualifying at Norwalk

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

NORWALK, Ohio – Both Brittany and Courtney Force are the current No. 1 qualifiers in their respective nitro categories after one qualifying session due to inclement weather at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is also a current No. 1 qualifier at the 12th event of 24 on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Weather did not allow for Pro Stock to take to the track during Friday’s qualifying.

Force piloted her Monster Energy / Advance Auto Parts dragster to a 3.776-second pass at 324.44 mph which took her to the top of the Top Fuel category Friday evening. She looks to secure her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 10th of her career.

“That pass was very important for our team,” B. Force stated. “With the rain you don’t know how many laps you’re going to get in before race day. The conditions were great, and we just went straight down there.”

Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is in second after his U.S. Army ran a pass of 3.792 at 324.44. Points leader Steve Torrence is third with a 3.792 at 327.82 in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Funny Car points leader Courtney Force leads qualifying with her run of 3.935 at 327.66 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. She is coming off a No. 1 qualifying position in Bristol and seeking her eighth No. 1 of the season.

“Going up there I was a little surprised we were going to lay down a number like that,” C. Force said. “With the rain coming in I was just looking for a clean run from point A to B. The car went straight down there and it felt like a good run.”

Ron Capps is in second after his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T ran a 3.961 at 320.28 and teammate Matt Hagan is third with a 3.981 at 325.22.

Smith holds the Pro Stock Motorcycle top spot after running as 6.866 at 195.39 on his Victory Magnum. He looks to lock-in his first No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“It was good to get the first run down,” Smith stated. “We have a top three bike every weekend. I’ve just got to do my job, be focused and hurt some feelings.”

Angelle Sampey rode her Team Liberty Racing Victory Magnum to a 6.899 at 193.24 and Andrew Hines rounds out the top three with a 6.911 at 194.58.

Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals continues at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

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NORWALK, Ohio — Friday’s results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.776 seconds, 324.44 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 330.63; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.792, 327.82; 4. Clay Millican, 3.800, 329.91; 5. Antron Brown, 3.805, 323.27; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.818, 313.07; 7. Pat Dakin, 3.833, 328.86; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.871, 309.13; 9. Leah Pritchett, 4.099, 271.73; 10. Scott Palmer, 5.854, 116.34; 11. Richie Crampton, 6.073, 104.42; 12. Blake Alexander, 7.041, 82.72; 13. Dom Lagana, 7.105, 85.82; 14. Terry McMillen, 7.432, 91.70; 15. Luigi Novelli, 7.996, 75.45; 16. Chris Karamesines, 9.544, 59.37. Not Qualified: 17. Kyle Wurtzel, 10.731, 64.88; 18. Audrey Worm, 12.635, 56.10.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.935, 327.66; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.961, 320.28; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 325.22; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.991, 325.22; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.017, 322.27; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 314.61; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.044, 315.27; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.101, 308.57; 9. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.143, 313.95; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.148, 279.73; 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.198, 298.21; 12. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.258, 304.67; 13. John Smith, Camry, 4.302, 277.66; 14. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.997, 185.92; 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.409, 152.64; 16. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 6.489, 101.17. Not Qualified: 17. Shawn Langdon, 6.512, 106.74; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 10.971, 44.80.

PRO STOCK: Class did not race due to rain.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith, Victory, 6.866, 195.39; 2. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.899, 193.24; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 194.58; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 192.85; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.917, 195.39; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 190.92; 7. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.938, 196.64; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.938, 194.66; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.63; 10. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.954, 193.85; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 195.70; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.990, 191.51; 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.066, 191.13; 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.92; 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.158, 188.75; 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 7.209, 187.29. Not Qualified: 17. Marc Ingwersen, 7.428, 187.29; 18. Joey Gladstone, 12.376, 63.63; 19. Kelly Clontz, broke.