Helio Castroneves fought to the final laps at Road America and, on his final run in the fast Six, managed to pip his teammate, Will Power, to pole by just six hundredths of a second. This brought him his 50th career pole position, leaving him behind only Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt on the all-time pole positions list.
Helio Castroneves Claims his 50th Pole Position at Road America
Asked about the end to the session, Will Power said “Obviously to be clipped by the old guy [Helio Castroneves] just there on the line – six one-hundredths. He gets faster as he gets older, like wine, matured. Good day for the team. Very, very good day. We just got to be good in the race tomorrow and collect some points.”
In a relatively modest response, Castroneves talked about starting on the front foot coming out of practice, believing they were just ahead of the competition. With smooth running going into qualifying they stuck to their original plan which he believes “…worked out pretty well!”
Team Penske hit a sweet spot on Saturday as the four Penske drivers locked out the front four grid slot for Sunday’s race having dominated qualifying to make it into the fast six. Castroneves and Power were in a league of their own however, with Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud 0.3 seconds and 0.7 seconds down.
The Penske crew were joined at the sharp end of the battle by championship leader, Scott Dixon, who will line up fifth on the grid. Dixon struggled to find a setup that suited both the primary black and alternate red tyre compounds and to get the most from the tyres, has opted to run higher on downforce. Knowing that this will be detrimental on the straights, he said “We’re down a ton on downforce here if you try to run the same amount of drag.” But he is confident that the Honda power will give him enough in the race to fight with the front runners.
Detroit double winner, Graham Rahal completes the third row on the grid having settled for sixth place, opting to save his red Firestones for the race. Knowing that fuel saving will be key, he is hoping his aggressive tyre strategy can allow him to make headway on the Penske guys up front.
Just failing to make the top six was Dixon’s teammate, Max Chilton, as it proved to be a mixed qualifying for Chip Ganassi Racing. Charlie Kimball qualified further back in tenth and Tony Kanaan, fresh off the back of his sixth in class finish in Le Mans, finished up down in 16th position.
Andretti Autosport also had mixed session with Marco Andretti starting in eighth, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay in 12th, Alexander Rossi in 15th and Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato down in 20th.
Esteban Gutierrez’ appearance this weekend and, for the remainder of the season, was confirmed late on Thursday evening. On this, his third outing for Dale-Coyne Racing in the #18 car of the injured Sebastien Bourdais, he will line up 17th on the grid, behind his teammate and fellow rookie, Ed Jones in 11th.
A win from the Helio Castroneves will make it his 30th IndyCar victory, rounding off a weekend worth celebrating.