Pagenaud takes Menards Penske car to Indy GP pole

Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud’s incredible form to kick off the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season rolled on Friday with his second straight Verizon P1 Award for Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It’s the fourth of his career.

Pagenaud, who’s in his fourth different livery of the year with the fluorescent, dayglo bright yellow Menards colors now adorning his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, set the best time in the Firestone Fast Six session with a best time of 1:08.6868.

It’s also Team Penske’s fifth straight pole to start the year, same as they did last year.

“It’s fantastic. It’s not that simple, it’s a lot of work in the background. I just want to take my hat off to my engineer, Ben Bretzman, for giving me a monster car every time,” he said.

“As soon as I put those Firestone red (alternate) tires on the car, she became magical, as we imagined. It’s a lot of fun for me right now, the whole team is functioning so well. The decision process from (strategist) Kyle Moyer to do one lap each segment was all him. It’s really a team sport.

“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in racing. I’m driving the best I’ve driven ever. Little by little, you get confidence with success. Team Penske, they give me the best car. If I drive it well, you should expect to be up there. To be up there so often is certainly the best feeling in the world.”

An abnormal remainder of the Fast Six followed with Charlie Kimball qualifying a career-best second in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, ahead of James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda), Josef Newgarden (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet), Graham Rahal (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing Honda) and Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda), all of whom posted season-best qualifying efforts.

However, as was later revealed late Friday night, the Newgarden and Rahal cars failed post-qualifying technical inspection and were sent to the back of the grid.

Q1 witnessed a few surprises. Hawksworth paced his group, Group 1, ahead of Scott Dixon, Kimball, Sebastien Bourdais, Mikhail Aleshin and Juan Pablo Montoya. Meanwhile Helio Castroneves missed out, as did the three Andretti Autosport drivers that were in the session.

In Group 2, Will Power set a new track record with a best time of 1:08.6746. Power’s previous track record was 1:09.4886 set last year. Pagenaud was second ahead of Newgarden, with Hinchcliffe, Rahal and Tony Kanaan next.

Although frustrated to miss out, Alexander Rossi, Matthew Brabham, JR Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot were next up. A surprising absence was Takuma Sato, who’s been decently quick this weekend.

Q2 is where things got a bit crazier. Pagenaud led the session but those who got eliminated included Kanaan, Montoya, Dixon, Bourdais, Aleshin and Power. Neither Dixon nor Power got a particularly clean lap.

Pagenaud laid down a lap more than three tenths clear of the field in the Firestone Fast Six session with Kimball next, Hinchcliffe third ahead of Newgarden, Rahal and Hawksworth.

Times are below.

INDIANAPOLIS – Qualifying Friday for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series event on 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. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:08.6868 (127.832)
2. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:08.9816 (127.286)
3. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:09.2260 (126.837)
4. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:09.5141 (126.311)
5. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:09.2511 (126.791)
6. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:09.2645 (126.766)
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:09.4010 (126.517)
8. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:09.4436 (126.439)
9. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:09.6771 (126.016)
10. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:09.9297 (125.560)
11. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:09.3289 (126.648)
12. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:09.1475 (126.981)
13. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:09.4947 (126.346)
14. (61) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 01:09.2944 (126.712)
15. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:09.5276 (126.287)
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:09.4377 (126.450)
17. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:09.6457 (126.072)
18. (16) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 01:09.4591 (126.411)
19. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:09.7478 (125.888)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:09.4659 (126.399)
21. (35) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 01:10.4109 (124.702)
22. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:09.4795 (126.374)
23. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:09.7720 (125.844)
24. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, No time
25. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, No time

Note: Times for Rahal and Newgarden were disallowed for violating Rule 14.3.1.1 (Minimum car weight)