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

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).