Pagenaud secures Team Penske’s 500th overall pole in Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – Simon Pagenaud has secured his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series pole position of the year for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, with a two-lap average of 185.859 mph at the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway.

The Verizon P1 Award joins previous poles at Barber, the Indianapolis Grand Prix and both Detroit races. He also started first at St. Petersburg after teammate Will Power failed to start owing to his injuries.

The pole is Team Penske’s 500th in its history as an organization, across all series, in its 50th year. Will Power’s pole at the last IndyCar race at Road America was the 499th.

“That’s pretty cool isn’t it. 500 – how cool is that,” Pagenaud said. “It is just qualifying, we have a lot of work to do this weekend.  But it certainly a great stamp on the work the No. 22 team has been doing as well as the whole Penske organization.

“It is such a gamble for the engineers in this situation. You only get two laps. Conditions from this morning to the afternoon changed.  It is fun. When you get the car right like this on an oval.

“The biggest statement we want to show is we are strong on ovals as well and want to win. I’m super happy about that. I’m super happy we can show some speed. We were fast at Indy as well, but mechanical took us out of that.  It’s great to be here. It is great to show so much strength.

“I’m the lucky one who got to win the 500th pole for Team Penske.  A Frenchman and on an oval!”

Pagenaud knocked off teammate Helio Castroneves from the top spot as the 10th of 22 drivers to turn a lap.

Pagenaud was fifth in first practice but advanced come the time of qualifying.

Josef Newgarden, who didn’t test but has a strong baseline from teammate JR Hildebrand’s setup, qualified second ahead of Castroneves, Max Chilton in a career-best fourth and Charlie Kimball completing the top five.

Chevrolet aero kits and engines occupied 10 of the top 11 spots on the grid, Mikhail Aleshin proving the lone Honda interloper in ninth.

That being said, Honda cars also struggled in qualifying last year and Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded to win his second race in a row and third in four years. Honda’s only losses at Iowa came in 2012 and 2013 when Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe in then-Chevrolet-powered entries for Andretti Autosport.

Results are below.

IowaQuals

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.