Munoz scores first career pole for IndyCar’s Firestone 600

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FORT WORTH — Carlos Munoz looked down at his dashboard and was surprised.

In his first lap of qualifying for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Munoz had put up a time of 24.11 seconds.

“Oh man, that was a good lap,” Munoz thought.

The next would be even better, as his average speed of 217.137 mph earned him his first career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Munoz, in his No. 26 Honda, was the only driver to top 217 mph. Since he was the fifth car out on the 1.5-mile track, the 24-year-old driver had to go through “a little bit suffering” with his teammates on pit road.

“If I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be on the pole; I wasn’t expecting to be 217 after practice,” Munoz said. Munoz was sixth fastest in the morning practice session at 215.882 mph.

“I wasn’t really happy with the car, conditions were really tough in practice,” Munoz said. “Looking at my teammates and other Hondas, impressed with my speed.”

The next highest Andretti Autosport car is Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in ninth, which is a career best. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti will start 11th and 12th respectively.

Munoz’ previous best start in 45 races was second in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. That was also his first-career start.

“This feels really good to be the first pole in Verizon IndyCar,” Munoz said. “Hopefully the first of many. Now it’s time to focus on the race. I want to win races.”

While he has one win, it came in a rain-shortened race at Detroit in 2015.

Filling out the top five is Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden.

Rossi earned his career best start in ninth. He started 11th in the Indy 500. Also earning a season-best is Sato. His previous best was eighth at Long Beach.

Surprising in qualifying was the result posted by Juan Pablo Montoya. The Team Penske driver will start 17th, which equals his second-worst start of the season (Indianapolis).

“For some reason our car is just slow, it seems to be like that every (week),” said Montoya, who has started 10th or worse in three of the last five races. “But it sucks, it gets old.”

Both Dale Coyne Racing cars will start from the rear after Conor Daly only put up a speed of 213.826 mph and Gabby Chaves did not make a qualifying attempt after a practice crash.

“We need to do a lot of work on the car, having not tested here really hurt us as well,” Daly said. “I just don’t know the track. I don’t know the ins and outs of it.”

FORT WORTH, Texas – Qualifying Friday for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 217.137
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 216.901
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 216.740
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 216.740
5. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.684
6. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 216.663
7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 216.647
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 216.295
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 216.262
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 216.262
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 216.260
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 216.162
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 215.927
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 215.751
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 215.533
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 215.299
17. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 215.279
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.030
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 214.864
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 214.568
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 213.826
22. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no speed