Pagenaud scores first pole with Team Penske at MAVTV 500 in Fontana


A Team Penske driver is on the pole for Saturday afternoon’s MAVTV 500, but not one who’s had a pole this season, or had a pole at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. previously.

Simon Pagenaud has secured the Verizon P1 Award, his first of the season and second of his career (Houston race one, 2014) in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet.

Pagenaud’s two-lap average topped out at 218.952 mph around the 2-mile oval, and led teammate Helio Castroneves, who like Pagenaud seeks both his first win of the season and first at ACS.

Marco Andretti broke up the Chevrolet dominated party at the top of the timesheets with third place, easily his best start of the season (had been seventh at Detroit race two) in the No. 27 Snapple Honda.

Ed Carpenter and Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top five; Montoya is the series points leader.

Scott Dixon qualified sixth, just ahead of the last two winners in Fontana, Tony Kanaan and Will Power, line up seventh and eighth respectively.

Takuma Sato and Sage Karam completed the top 10 qualifiers. James Jakes did not set a time after a mechanical issue in the second practice session.

Qualifying speeds are below:

FONTANA, Calif.- Results of 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, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 218.952
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 218.734
3. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 217.797
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 217.666
5. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 217.250
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 217.184
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 217.184
8. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 217.176
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 217.109
10. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 217.060
11. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 216.878
12. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.490
13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 216.242
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 215.983
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.719
16. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 215.526
17. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 215.346
18. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 213.720
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 213.639
20. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 213.317
21. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 212.644
22. (18) Pippa Mann, Honda, 210.528
23. (7) James Jakes, Honda, no speed

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)