Power on pole for GP of Indianapolis, continuing Penske qualifying streak

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INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske continued one, but not both, of its Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying streaks Friday ahead of this weekend’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

With Will Power securing the Verizon P1 Award for pole, Penske has its eighth straight pole position dating to Milwaukee last year. Power also set a new track record of 1:09.4886 around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

It is Power’s second pole of the year, 38th of his career (sixth all-time) and 227th for Team Penske.

However the team was denied its sixth consecutive front row lockout, a streak which lasted since Auto Club Speedway last year, with Scott Dixon breaking into second near the end of the Firestone Fast Six.

Penske’s four drivers joined Dixon and Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Fast Six, which meant the two most successful teams locked out the final qualifying session.

There wasn’t too much to report from Q1, other than the demise of all but one Honda entrant. Jack Hawksworth, who qualified second a year ago, was the only Honda to advance into Q2 for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. Also of note, returning driver Carlos Huertas had an engine issue during the session, which caused a delay in-between Q1 and Q2.

In Q2, the Penske and Ganassi sextet emerged ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, 2014 polesitter and Bourdais’ past teammate Sebastian Saavedra in an impressive eight, Luca Filippi, Stefano Coletti, Hawksworth and Barber race winner Josef Newgarden.

Both Filippi and Coletti turned in their best qualifying efforts of the season.

In the Fast Six, Power noted his pace on old tires, and that was enough for him to emerge at the front of the field in qualifying. Dixon made a late-session surge to try to overtake him, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Helio Castroneves will line up third for his 300th career race, with Juan Pablo Montoya fourth and in the Fast Six for the first time on a road course since his return to the series.

Simon Pagenaud, the 2014 winner, will start fifth ahead of Tony Kanaan.

INDIANAPOLIS – Qualifying Friday for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:09.4886 (126.357)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:09.7156 (125.946)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:09.7388 (125.904)
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:09.8072 (125.781)
5. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:09.8715 (125.665)
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:10.2772 (124.940)
7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:10.0230 (125.393)
8. (8) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 01:10.1572 (125.153)
9. (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:10.1969 (125.082)
10. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:10.3679 (124.778)
11. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:10.4558 (124.623)
12. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:10.8321 (123.961)
13. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:10.6273 (124.320)
14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:10.5031 (124.539)
15. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:10.6380 (124.301)
16. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:10.5282 (124.495)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:10.6480 (124.284)
18. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 01:10.5776 (124.408)
19. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:10.8345 (123.957)
20. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:10.6749 (124.236)
21. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:10.8786 (123.879)
22. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:10.7391 (124.124)
23. (18) Carlos Huertas, Honda, 01:12.5038 (121.103)
24. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:11.1636 (123.383)
25. (19) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 01:12.5814 (120.973)

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.