MAVTV 500: Pagenaud’s 1st oval pole leads Team Penske sweep

JUNE 26-27: MAVTV 500 IndyCar Race June 26-27 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Jill Weisleder/Auto Club Speedway

By Dave Lewandowski for Indycar.com

FONTANA, Calif. — Simon Pagenaud earned his second career Indy car pole and first on an oval in leading a Team Penske sweep of the front row for the MAVTV 500 with a two-lap average speed of 218.952 mph on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet, topped teammate Helio Castroneves’ 2014 pole-winning average speed of 218.540 mph and will start on the front row for the third consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series race. Castroneves qualified second with a two-lap average of 218.734 mph in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet.

It is the fifth consecutive race that Team Penkse entries have occupied the front row.

“Thanks to my crew for the preparations and it’s exciting to get a superspeedway pole,” said Pagenaud, who is in his first season with Team Penske. “Qualifying is one thing. It’s a reward for performance. We have a 500-mile race and hopefully I can reward the team for its hard work. It’s a brand new team that is gelling really well.

“This (pole) is nice, but frankly, you can win from the back in a 500-mile race like (Juan Pablo) Montoya did (in the Indianapolis 500). Being able to run in different lanes and being smart in traffic is going to be key.”

Marco Andretti, whose two-lap average speed of 217.797 mph in the No. 27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda was third best of the 22 qualifiers, posted his highest  qualifying result since securing the pole for the July 2013 race at Pocono Raceway.

“We maximized everything in qualifying, and I’m really happy with the race car for the long race. That’s the important thing,” said Andretti, who won the pole for the 2012 race at Auto Club Speedway.

CFH Racing co-owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who has finished first, second and third in the past three races at Auto Club Speedway, qualified on the outside of Row 2 (217.666 mph) in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Pagenaud, who will be competing in his 18th oval race, won his first Verizon P1 Award on June 28, 2014, at Houston. He has qualified in the top five in 10 of the 11 Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. Pagenaud also qualified on the front row for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, though 10th- and 11th-place results he would characterize as disappointing.

Pagenaud’s Lap 1 speed of 219.112 mph was fastest of all qualifiers. James Jakes did not make a qualifying attempt following an engine issue in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the second practice session. Pagenaud is the fifth different pole sitter this season.

Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Montoya, who is seeking to complete a career Triple Crown of 500-mile race victories at Pocono Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, qualified fifth at 217.250 mph in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet. He will share Row 3 with 2014 MAVTV 500 race winner Tony Kanaan, who recorded a two-lap average speed of 217.184 mph in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

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