IndyCar – Andretti Autosport dominate Saturday qualifying at Pocono

Andretti Autosport front row PoconoThe Andretti Autosport team captured the front row of the grid Saturday in qualifying for the “Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco.”


Marco Andretti obliterated the Pocono Raceway track record of 211.715 mph set by Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989, with a two-lap average speed of 221.273 mph in the # 25 RC Cola Chevrolet. Reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was .1404 of a second behind in the # 1 DHL Chevrolet, and James Hinchcliffe was third (220.431 mph) in the # 27 Chevrolet.

The last time a team swept a three-car front row was the 1988 Indy500 with Penske Racing’s Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser. Andretti, currently lying third in the championship, is looking to earn his third career victory.

To be able to win Sunday at his “home race” (he’s from nearby Nazareth) would be special. The Andretti family history at “The Tricky Triangle” circuit includes Marco’s grandfather, Mario, winning the 1986 race in which his father, Michael, took pole. Mario was on pole for the 1987 race shortly after Marco was born.

Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, the only driver with the opportunity to collect the $1 million “Triple Crown” bonus for winning races this year at Indianapolis, Pocono and Auto Club Speedway, will start fifth in the # 11 Sunoco “Turbo” car for KV Racing Technology-SH Racing.

Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso, driving the # 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Citgo car, made contact with the barrier at turn 1 on his second qualifying lap. He was checked at the infield medical center and cleared to drive. Alex Tagliani’s # 98 Barracuda Racing also made contact at the same location as Viso on his first qualifying lap, he was also checked and cleared to drive.

Ryan Briscoe, who was competing in an American Le Mans Series race in Connecticut, did not make a qualifying attempt in the # 4 National Guard Panther Racing car. Sunday’s race will feature a three-wide start and is scheduled for 160 laps.

Full qualifying results for Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled By Sunoco can be seen here,

Video highlights from practice can be seen here,


JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet):

“We’ve been battling understeer in Turn 1 all week long and all week in testing. I told my engineer if we have to lift in Turn 1, we’re going to be slow. And then I was loose. I had a big moment in Turn 1 and had to lift. Andretti Autosport, 1-2-3, it’s incredible. It’s Pocono, Andretti on pole, Andretti Autosport on front row – you couldn’t write a better story than that.”

(About importance of mechanical grip): “Paramount. This place is tricky. It has earned its name. It’s not a marketing ploy. That’s an earned reputation. Trying to balance the setup with high banks of Turn 1 and flat of Turn 3 is incredibly difficult.” 

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet):

“I always know my teammates are going to be strong. I got everything out of it. I knew I was going to be pleased with the result. In IndyCar racing these days, there are five guys who get it right. But I lucked out today. It all came together. It was going to be all about balance. We were really focusing on all details in practice.”

(About this track): “It’s tremendous. I’ve taken a huge liking to this place the second I rolled off here at the first test. I think this place was built for Indy cars, and vice-versa.” (About race): “I think it’s going to be a little bit like Indianapolis, right place at right time, timing your passes. You really have to be smart. You have to be more than just alongside. You can’t go two-wide in Turn 2.”

(About being third member of family to win pole at Pocono): “It means a lot to me. This is the first place where, besides Milwaukee, I was able to get a pole where they did. But tomorrow is the one we want. That would be icing on the cake. My first goal is tomorrow. I really want to get this monkey off my back. I want to get the wins coming. We need to close the gap, first and foremost, on the points lead.” (Is there extra pressure because you’re on pole at home race?): “Definitely, because if you look at my worst finish (this season), I swept that weekend until that point, too. We’re up to the task. We just need to execute.” 

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Sunoco “Turbo” KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): 

“It was OK. Our first time out here. I’m impressed with the number of people out here today. They don’t call it The Tricky Triangle for nothing.” (Going for pole?): “I was, and it didn’t stick.When I came here last week, and I did my first 20 laps, I said there’s no way we’re going flat in Turn 1 here. And obviously we did. It’s exciting.”

(About what it will take to beat Andretti Autosport): “It’s a 400-mile race. The Andretti guys were strong for the entire season. If you look at their Indy 500 effort, I don’t expect anything less. I don’t think I had anything for him today for pole. This race is a 400-mile race. I don’t think you can pick a favorite yet. They did a great job putting three cars in the top three. But it’s a 400-mile race.” (About three-wide start): “I think it’s part of the Triple Crown thing. We only do it once per year. Being in a 400-mile race, I hope we respect each other. This straightaway, it’s longer than Indy. It’s wide. I don’t see a problem doing it. But it’s definitely going to be different. We can’t get greedy. We have to respect each other. It’s going to be difficult. My boss tells me all the time, that’s why I get paid the big bucks.”

(About loss of speed in qualifying lap): “I think I came up to speed too quick. My fault. The Sunoco car is pretty good this weekend, so we’re going for the Triple Crown. I’m excited to be here at Pocono; it’s my first time. It’s nice to see how many race car fans we have in this part of the world. I’m glad you guys are here, and we’ll go for it tomorrow, for sure.” 

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda):

“The car was pretty good. We spent a lot of time working on the race car and getting enough miles in so we could mileage-out the engine and put a fresh on in for warm-up tonight and the race tomorrow. Overall, I think we’re reasonably happy with our qualifying effort. The car slid a little bit, in Turn 3 on my first timed-lap, so I think that cost us a little speed heading into the second lap. We’ll see where we end up in the starting lineup and have a good 400-mile race tomorrow.” 

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet):

“It was a great one for Andretti Autosport. It’s 400 miles. We got quailing out of the way. It’s going to be a long race. We have to go against Penske, Ganassi and, of course, a big challenge from teammates. After that we got going, we get to racing.”

(About Marco Andretti winning pole): “It’s definitely good. This is Andretti’s backyard, with Marco on the pole. The three-wide start will look pretty cool.” (About teamwork): “We meet as a team. Andretti Autosport is really open that way. We go over everything from every session and what we’re going to do the next session. We’re constantly talking as a group about what we can do better. Each driver likes something different in a race car, and that’s where we go our own way.”

(About Turn 1): “Tagliani crashed because he understeered into the gray. Viso got loose early in the corner. This place is tricky in general. This place is tough. It’s more thinking. You have to be so on top of your race tools in the car. As the wind shifts and changes, and you get into one car, two cars in traffic, the place is always changing. When you’re running, you’re changing gears. It’s a busy lap here. Short of Milwaukee, it’s the busiest lap. You’re moving things around, trying to keep up with the balance of the car.” 

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):

“Being back at a superspeedway here in Pocono feels like being back at Indy, and I still have a lot to catch up on. It was so helpful to have a full test day here in Pocono to prepare for this race, though. This is a tricky place because it feels like you’re on two different tracks with how different these turns are. We got a decent run in though for qualifications, and now we have to put our heads together and make sure we have a strong race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet):

“It was a good job by the Verizon team in qualifying. I think our setup was spot on, and we were looking good on the first lap. And I thought we had a chance at pole, but then we had overboost going into Turn 1 on the second lap, and the penalty for that was big and it cost us our chance. Still, qualifying in row two is a good place to be. I like this track here at Pocono; it’s pretty challenging. I think it’s going to be a good race tomorrow. It’s a very long race, and you can definitely pass at this place, so it should be really fun to watch.” 

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet):

“First of all, I have to say thanks to the fans for coming out and supporting us. It was great to see so many enthusiastic people here today, and they’re really excited about IndyCar. Good job by the promoters and everyone here at Pocono Raceway. Now, qualifying sixth is pretty good for the Hitachi Team Penske car. Maybe we were a little too conservative in our qualifying setup, but that’s OK. I know the car has been very fast and very smooth all weekend, and I think we will be strong for the race. This track is very interesting, and it’s going to be pretty exciting starting three-wide on Sunday. We’re looking forward to a good race and hopefully a strong finish in the Hitachi Chevrolet.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 SFH Racing/Rotondo Weirich Honda): 

“Pocono is definitely a tricky one. I think we’ve laid a good foundation for all the testing that we’ve done. We’ve learned a lot around this place, and I think we understand what we want in the race. We just have to keep a cool head, and I think we can definitely come out of here with a great result.” 

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda):

“We qualified close enough up to the front that we should be able to move up throughout the race and not fall too far behind. Passing may be difficult here, but we’ll know for sure tomorrow. There’s one-and-a-half grooves here at Pocono so you can try the outside of the middle groove and be aggressive, but we’ll just have to see how much luck guys have doing that. My car has great balance, and I feel confident that we’ll have a car that can climb through the pack tomorrow.” 

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):

“It wasn’t a good day for us. We have a lot better car than where we just qualified. We have a lot of work to do now. And it will be hard. That’s because it is hard to pass here. I am disappointed, to say the least. It will be challenging for the race. Just like Indianapolis, track position will be very important. We just didn’t have enough grip to get through the corners the way I wanted. I will have to work on getting a good start to make up some spots early. This place is tricky , just like the nickname says. With three different turns, it takes a balancing act to get the car as good as possible. We will analyze our data from today and get a good game plan for the race.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Energizer Honda):

“We had really good balance with the Energizer car here in Pocono today. We’re close to the same aerodynamic setup as Scott (Dixon) with the car, but just 3 miles per hour slower for whatever reason. We’re obviously asking Honda why that is right now, and I’m pretty frustrated with that right now. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can. The Target team is working as hard as ever, too, and my frustration doesn’t lie with them. It’s been pretty tough.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):

“I think that qualifying run was about what we thought it would be, which was a few miles per hour off of the Chevrolet. The other manufacturer is fast, but we have a good car, and I love the balance of it. We’re trimmed as much as we can be and we just put in the latest Honda engine. I can feel some difference in it but not enough to be where we need to be right now. This is such a cool place here in Pocono, and I really love driving this track. The fans are amazing, and I’m looking forward to a competitive event tomorrow. I hope we put on a great show for all these people.” 

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): 

“Very satisfied with what we achieved. There was almost nothing left, so the engineers and boys did a great job to put it all together considering we only had one qualifying sim in practice and a relatively short preparation time for the new track. I enjoyed the lap. It was a very busy lap because here Turn 1 and Turn 3 is so different balance you get, so you use the tools in to the maximum. So you get a lot of great feeling when you’re done. I’m really looking forward to the race.” 

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): 

“We are pretty happy on our qualifying after a bad morning practice session. We didn’t feel comfortable trimming the car out, so we just stayed where we knew we would stay flat for the two qualifying laps. We knew it was not going to put us in the top five, but at least it’s a decent qualifying. Now we can try to make the car a little better for the race, and we will see what we can get.” 

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet):

“Very disappointing qualifying session on my side. I’m pretty sure we could have done a lot better, but we had a mechanical failure. The throttle sensor destroyed our run as soon as we left the pits. Now we need to focus putting together a fast race car and go from there. Tomorrow will be a long race, so we will see what we can do.”

JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda):

“We struggled a little bit generally to find the balance. It’s strange because when we came here for the test day, we were pretty happy, but obviously with the track temperature and the air temperature creeping up, it’s changed the car. We will work on the race car in the final practice, and hopefully that will put us in good shape for tomorrow. This morning Turn 3 was giving us trouble, but in qualifying it was Turn 1, but that’s the nature of this place. I guess that’s why they call it The Tricky Triangle, because it’s always changing and it’s fun to be out there with the three different corners. No corner is the same, so trying to get the car sorted out for all three is pretty tough.” 

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda):

“I’m proud of our Midas guys; they’ve been working awfully hard. Handling-wise, we made a lot of gains. To be honest, I thought the balance in qualifying was pretty good, but we hit the hard limiter on the front straight, which all but ends your run, and unfortunately that killed our first lap. I think we probably could have run a mid-18 (second lap) if that had happened, but unfortunately we didn’t. Our race car is pretty good, but our qualifying car seemed to be our weakness here. But we will go out there and pound around tomorrow and hopefully make up some spots. It’s going to be tough to pass here tomorrow with the aerodynamic setup that we have and with the tire grip that we have available to us.” 

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet):

“It was a really good qualifying effort for us. I think we might have had a little bit more, but we can be pretty happy, especially when I look at where we started this weekend. We’ve been struggling on the ovals, especially the last two races, but so far the car’s been awesome. I’m pretty happy; the Nuclear Clean Air Energy car has been pretty quick. It’s been a lot of hard work, but we took it step-by-step. Huge thanks to the team for that. We’ve really leaned on Tony (Kanaan) and tried to learn as much as possible because he’s really fast around here. I think we have a really strong race car, so hopefully we should be OK in the race. We’re toward the front, which is where we were hoping for. We should be able to go forward from there.”

Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager, IZOD IndyCar Series:

“Congratulations to Marco Andretti for winning the pole position at Pocono Raceway today for tomorrow’s 400 mile race. This is Marco’s second pole of the season and is a continuation of the consistency he is demonstrating this year which shows in his current 3rd place position in the driver’s points battle.  

Andretti Autosport secured the entire 3-wide front row for the start of the race tomorrow with Ryan Hunter-Reay alongside Marco and James Hinchcliffe beside Ryan.  The Chevrolet IndyCar V6 will also power the second row for Will Power, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.  We are very proud of the effort and preparation that our teams and technical partners have put forth for the return of IndyCar racing to ‘The Tricky Triangle’ here at Pocono and look forward to a strong Team Chevy race result tomorrow.”   By James Foreman 

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