Carlos Munoz on Pole at Texas

Carlos Munoz clearly knows his way around big ovals. The Andretti Autosport driver has twice finished runner-up in the Indianapolis 500. Today he earned his first career Pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Munoz will lead the field of 22 cars to the green flag tomorrow night, under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway. Munoz was the only driver to eclipse the 217 mph barrier. His two-lap average speed was 217.137 mph.

Last year’s winner, Scott Dixon, will start alongside Munoz on the front row. He is currently second in the championship standings, as he tries to win back-to-back titles. Helio Castroneves is behind Dixon in 3rd, both in the standings and to start the race tomorrow night. Takuma Sato joins Castroneves in Row 2, which is a good place to be at Texas. Drivers starting in the first two rows have gone on to win 17 of the 27 IndyCar races at Texas.

Qualification Results for the Firestone 600

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Championship contender Josef Newgarden and championship leader Simon Pagenaud will start in Row 3. Will Power’s streak of three consecutive Pole starts at Texas came to an end, as he qualified in 7th spot, next to Ganassi rival Tony Kanaan. Row 5 belongs to the Indianapolis 500 winner and pole sitter; Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.

The two remaining Andretti Autosport drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, start in Row 6 tomorrow night. Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter are both potential race winners here, but will have to find their way to the front. Juan Montoya will have his work cut out for him, as he qualified in 17th position. Justin Wilson won this race from that same starting position in 2012.

The Dale Coyne Racing machines will start in the final row, as Gabby Chaves crashed in the morning practice session on Friday. There is one final 30-minute practice session this evening at 7:45 PM ET, which should be extremely busy, as teams work on race setup.

The race distance is 248 laps, which is 360.84 miles around the 1.455-mile oval. Will Power won the Pole for last year’s race, and Dixon is the defending race winner.

Coverage for the Firestone 600 begins at 8 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

Qualification Photos via IndyCar

Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “Disappointed that we didn’t qualify better today. For some reason our car was slow. We’ll just have to look at things tonight and see what we can do to have better results tomorrow.”

Helio Castroneves: “We’re very happy with the qualifying results. And not surprised at all. The AAA Insurance Chevrolet team is the best and have worked really hard on this car. The warmth is really a challenge. Racing at night is another challenge after a practice and qualifying in the heat of the day. We all know that tire degradation is critical and trying to manage that is pretty difficult. I like where we are starting and we hope to bring home a good result.”

James Hinchcliffe: “I think the race is going to be similar to what we’ve seen here the last couple of years. Firestone put together a package that falls off to make it a little more challenging for us, make the show a little bit better, stay away from pack racing, keep it safe. The onus is really on us as drivers and teams to make the setup as easy on tires as we can be. We need to be patient and not just go flat out at the drop of the green or the start of a stint. I think it’s going to be a thinking-man’s race tomorrow night. Strategy comes down to playing it as it unfolds. You can make a plan A, B, C, D and they’re all out the window by lap one, turn one. We just need to focus on taking care of the car and tires. Unfortunately, we never really get to run in the track temperatures that we’re going to be racing at. Even tonight’s session is a little early for us, but it’s the same for everyone so we just have to be smart about it and hopefully the Arrow car is going to be up front.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think it’s a great racetrack and it’s one of my favorites. That’s because there’s not only one line, there are two lines here at least, maybe three. Maybe four if you’re Russian. I’m going to use everything I can to be at the top because I think the team is competitive. We didn’t hit any major mistakes with the car setup or from my side so I think at the moment, that’s probably a good place to start with. I’m pretty happy that the car was much better than it was in the first session. The SMP Racing and DOOM car is going to be solid in the race, as always, and we’ll just go from here.”

Max Chilton: “Days like this you’re just learning. It’s all new. It’s hot, there are gusts of wind and you are literally just learning as you go. There’s not much practice time and I’m just trying to log as many laps as I can and soak up as much information as I can from my teammates.”

Scott Dixon: “Huge credit to the Target team. The car is fast and I’m excited. The amount of lanes you can use and the different configurations you can run here in Texas is really cool. I’m fairly happy with the qualifying run but we just missed by a little bit. The car was surprisingly good to drive. In these situations, you trim out a lot – you’re on the edge and if you miss by a little bit it can be a bit of a handful. But the balance is really good. I thought the rear was sliding a little bit, which cost us a bit of speed. I moved the weight jacker a couple times and that was about it. It’s nice to start at the front – I don’t think it’s a really big deal where you qualify as long as you’re up towards the front. But it’s always great to be near the pointy end of the field and congratulations to Andretti and (Carlos) Munoz for pulling off the pole.”

Tony Kanaan: “I wouldn’t say I’m happy with where we ended up for qualifying today but I think it was a solid run considering how conservative we went with our setup. Even though we came out in first this morning, we had a pretty messy first practice session where we struggled to get a solid qualifying run in with all the traffic. We’re in a decent starting spot for the race, so now we’re turning all of our focus to tonight’s practice. I think it’s going to be a pretty fun session with everyone working on race trim and running in packs.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a tough qualifying session for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We didn’t test here and we didn’t have the tires or the time to do a qualifying simulation this morning. So we didn’t really know what we had going into qualifying. The car was loose. I stayed in it, but the second lap was pretty dodgy. It’s just difficult…no time, no tires. I think we are about where we are supposed to be with the amount of downforce we had on the car. Hopefully, things will be better when the track cools off. We are just going to have to try and make the best of the situation.”

Will Power: “Not quite what we expected for the Verizon Chevy. We’ll need to reset up some things for tomorrow so we can get better in traffic. Just needed to run a bit more down force. Hard to predict what do with the car and what to do in traffic because it can be different every year here.”

Takuma Sato: “We had a sketchy morning but the guys did a great job to put everything together and I felt pretty comfortable. Working with A.J., he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the 14 car, so we’re very happy especially since this is our home track. The race will be a very different scenario because everything will cool down and we’ll have more downforce and more grip available. The car is in the ballpark and we have the final practice tonight to fine-tune the race setup.”

Graham Rahal: “I’m disappointed to start 13th. I thought the balance wasn’t bad in qualifying and I thought the speed, when I saw it, wasn’t bad based on last year. I didn’t think that many guys would go that much quicker but let’s focus on the race car and make it the best we can.  I hate having to come from mid pack to challenge but we’ve got a lot of laps tomorrow night to do that. I only ran 10 laps this morning due to the gearbox issue and only ran one qualifying sim compared to others who did two or three but I thought the car felt pretty good.  The guys did a great job to get the car fixed for qualifying.”

Conor Daly: “We started on an island this morning, we were way off. I’ve never been here before and it was obviously tough for us to not have a little bit of experience coming here. We had to evaluate our set up. The cars are not kind to drive here. That was my first lap flat all around in qualifying. It’s a long race, I just hate that we have to start in the back yet again. We’ll see what happens.”

Ed Carpenter: “It’s been a frustrating day, I really didn’t know what I had going into qualifying so I can’t say I am disappointed with that. I was hoping to be able to run something in that range. The day hadn’t gone as we wanted, even in the qualifying line the car didn’t want to start. The first practice for us was just a nightmare, we had issues the whole time, both self-inflicted and out of our control.”

Josef Newgarden: “We did a good first lap, for some reason the car just dropped off on Lap 2. The car was great, no dramas from my end. The car handled really well, we just lost some speed there on the second lap. We’re starting within the Top 5 so we’re pretty happy with that. We should have a good car tomorrow night; we’ve worked hard on the Fuzzy’s special.”

Simon Pagenaud: “The balance and the handling of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy is good. I’m really happy with it. Qualifying is difficult here. We worked primarily on race trim earlier in practice and not a lot of qualifying stuff. Tire management is so important here, but it is fun to see who has the fast cars on new tires.”

Carlos Munoz: “To be honest I didn’t expect that speed. I thought we would do something around 216 mph, but I was happy with the speed we were doing. It’s my first (IndyCar career) pole – I was looking at the (Verizon P1) hat and it looks really nice! I’m really happy for all of my team after Indy and for everything, I have to thank everyone. It’s a long race tomorrow and now we have to focus on that with practice tonight.”

Marco Andretti: “We were hoping for a better starting position for tomorrow’s race, especially being in Snapple’s hometown… But this is always a fun race here in Texas and we’ll work on picking a line that will take up to the front.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s really hard to get the set up exactly as you need it. That’s the worst part about (Texas Motor Speedway), just getting the car in that very small operating range. Every year it seems to get trickier too. The track surface seems to be a little bit rougher every year and just eats up those Firestones more and more. We’ll see. We’re going to try and have a good night tonight in practice and get the DHL car set up for tomorrow.”

Jack Hawksworth: “The car was pretty loose and I thought if it was that loose then it would have been faster than it was because I was pretty much flat. It wasn’t very quick and was really hard to drive so it was a difficult qualifying session.”

Charlie Kimball: “We’re obviously disappointed with that run for the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet. We had a much faster car in that first practice session, so we’re not exactly sure what happened in that run to make us so much slower. Where you qualify is definitely important here, but it’s not the end all be all on any oval. Tonight’s practice will be really important for everyone, but especially us since we’ll be starting further back and will need to work harder to move through the field.”

Alexander Rossi: “The car was so good – It’s really a shame to give away good positions because you don’t have a radio. We weren’t able to communicate with the timing stand to adjust the settings on the Castrol Edge car, so missed out on where we feel we should be on the grid. But I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and working on moving up through the field.”

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