Castroneves claims fourth Verizon P1 Award of 2015 in ABC Supply 500 qualifying (VIDEO)


Helio Castroneves clinched the penultimate Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.

Castroneves recorded a two-lap average speed of 220.530mph to head up a Penske one-two-three at the top of the timesheets, leading home Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

Power had set the early pace whose average speed of 220.398 remained the benchmark for the first half of the session despite him being just the second driver to take to the circuit.

Pagenaud turned in a two-lap average of 220.485 to edge out Power by less than 0.1mph and give himself provisional pole ahead of practice pace-setter’s Charlie Kimball’s run.

After posting the quickest warm-up time, Kimball’s qualifying run came to a surprise end when the Ganassi driver slammed hard into the wall at turn three and caught some air, hitting the fence in the process.

Thankfully, Kimball was quick to give a thumbs up and let everyone know he was okay upon coming to rest. However, the same could not be said of his car or the catch fencing, with repairs for the latter resulting in a 45-minute delay, during which time Kimball was cleared from the medical centre with only a small cut to his chin.

Once the session resumed, the task of toppling Pagenaud for pole fell to the Frenchman’s teammate, Castroneves, who managed to go 0.045mph quicker over his two laps to secure his fourth Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 season.

“We’re solid,” a jubilant Castroneves said. “I can’t wait for the race.”

A poor first lap cost championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya dearly as he could only qualify 19th, failing to replicate the form of his Penske teammates.

“We won at Pocono last year and we should run pretty good going to the next races, as well,” Montoya said. “I think we’re in good shape. You can’t really know what’s going to happen.

“We’ve done a really good job all year, like everybody else, had ups and downs, and we’ll see what it brings.”

To make matters worse for the Colombian, chief title rival Graham Rahal finished fifth, handing the American driver the upper hand heading into tomorrow’s race. Scott Dixon could only qualify 11th, spreading the three main title protagonists throughout the field.

Josef Newgarden continued his impressive form in 2015 to finish as the leading non-Penske driver in fourth place ahead of Rahal and Andretti’s Carlos Munoz, who was followed by teammates Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top ten.

Beyond Kimball, the other driver who did not take time was Stefano Coletti, who had crashed in the morning practice session.

The ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2pm ET on Sunday.


LONG POND, Pa. – Qualifying Saturday for the ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 220.530
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 220.485
3. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 220.398
4. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 220.141
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 220.118
6. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 219.831
7. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 219.685
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 219.672
9. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 219.578
10. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 219.521
11. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 218.969
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 218.816
13. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 218.596
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 218.331
15. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 218.246
16. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 218.152
17. (18) Pippa Mann, Honda, 217.372
18. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 217.241
19. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 217.194
20. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 216.401
21. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 216.315
22. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 215.101
23. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, no speed
24. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, no speed

Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The Red Flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500