Simon Pagenaud on Pole at Iowa

The Verizon IndyCar Series had a much-deserved week off following the fantastic race at Road America. The stage now moves west, to the small town of Newton, Iowa for the Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday evening. Simon Pagenaud continued his epic 2016 season on Saturday, earning the Pole position for tomorrow evening’s race. It’s the fifth pole for Simon this year, and the seventh of his career. Even more impressive, it is the 500th pole position in Team Penske’s rich racing history. With the bonus point earned today, Pagenaud now has a 75 point lead in the championship.

Simon’s two-lap average of 34.6334 seconds gave him his second career pole on an oval. In what was an equally impressive performance given his injuries, Josef Newgarden earned a spot on the front row next to Pagenaud for Sunday’s race. Helio Castroneves will start in third position, with three Ganassi drivers (Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan) starting right behind him. Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Mikhail Aleshin, and Scott Dixon round out the top ten qualifiers from Saturday.

Qualification Results for the Iowa Corn 300

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Juan Montoya and Graham Rahal are names you expect to see at the front sometime during the race, but they will both be starting from Row 6 tomorrow. Former Iowa race winner James Hinchcliffe will have his work cut out for him, as he starts in last (22nd) position. Sure it’s never been done before, but the pole sitter has never won a race at Iowa either, in the nine IndyCar events held here.

Andretti Autosport has won seven of the nine IndyCar races at Iowa, including the last six in a row. They have been the definition of the word dominant, but they certainly had their hands full on Saturday. Both Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay spun in the first practice session before qualifying today. Marco managed to avoid the wall, and Hunter-Reay was fortunate to only suffer rear wing damage. They qualified 19th and 20th today, but their teammates didn’t shine either. Carlos Munoz starts in 15th, while Alexander Rossi will roll off in 17th spot.

The only two races that Michael Andretti’s team didn’t win, were won by Chip Ganassi’s team. Kanaan is a former winner at Iowa, and always does well here when he finishes the race. He has only finished 5 of the 9 races he started at Iowa, but all 5 of them have resulted in a podium finish. On the flip side, Team Penske has never won at Iowa, and their four drivers have a combined 22 starts here, but have just one podium finish (Castroneves in 2010).

The race distance is 300 laps, which is 268.2 miles around the 0.894-mile oval. Helio Castroneves won the Pole for last year’s race, and Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending race winner.

Kanaan led both practice sessions on Saturday, saying that he left everything he had out on the track. Coverage for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 begins at 5 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

Qualification Photos via IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “During qualifying there was too much understeer in the car and we were a little bit loose, but it’s okay. We did a lot of work today and we prepared really well for the race. So, we feel pretty confident. The DeVilbiss Chevy should do well in tomorrow’s race.”

Helio Castroneves: “The Hitachi Chevrolet is really good. We’re talking about a few hundredths of a second and when you have incredible teammates and we’re all going out right in a row, whoever goes last is probably going to get the best end of it. Simon did a good job. The 500th pole for Team Penske. I’m proud to be part of this team. I’m happy for him getting the pole position. Now tomorrow I’m going to go for the race win.”

James Hinchcliffe: “It was definitely a less-than-ideal day at the office in the Arrow Electronics car. We had some sort of issue in qualifying and I’m not entirely sure what caused it but for the gap in pace that we saw, there’s definitely a major issue. We’ll take a look at it and try to diagnose the problem. It’s just unfortunate to start from the back here, especially during a day race, and another bad pit selection for my home race in Toronto. With that said, we can bounce back, it’s something we’ve done before. It’s just going to be about being smart tomorrow and staying out of trouble.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think we had a decent qualifying run and I’m happy to be the fastest Honda. Top ten is a good position to start tomorrow in the SMP Racing car and the race is very long. It’s going to be very difficult and it’s hard to say what to expect but I think we’ll be okay.”

Max Chilton: “The Gallagher car was really strong today. It was loose, probably too loose, but when I qualified here last year on the pole in Indy Lights I was too loose. I think that’s the just the way it is around here. You have to be on the limit, especially in qualifying. I think in the race you need a car that you’re confident with, but in qualifying you just have to go for it.”

Scott Dixon: “Going to the green flag lap I had a bit of a moment and nearly lost it. I had to downshift and that really hurt our momentum. I was a little bit timid after that, but we have a good Target car and will be ready for the race come tomorrow here at Iowa.”

Tony Kanaan: “It’s safe to say that I left everything I had out on the track for that qualifying run. The car felt really loose and honestly it felt like I was close to crashing a few times, but we’ll take a sixth-place starting spot for the race tomorrow. This track really suits me and I came from much further back when I won here in 2010. The No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet’s race setup is really strong and I’m feeling confident in the race car.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “We were too optimistic with the downforce level given the track conditions with the track temp going up. I was sliding all over the place. The balance was good on the Hydroxycut Chevy machine. I just had no grip. We trimmed a little more than where we were this morning, we went for it, but it was not a smart move. It is what it is.”

Will Power: “For qualifying, we wanted to be a little conservative and the goal was to just be up in the front.  We didn’t qualify quite where we would have liked.  The track can be quite slippery here and that can have an effect. But I’m feeling good about the Verizon Chevy and we’ll just work on what we need for tomorrow’s race to finish out strong.”

Takuma Sato: “Iowa qualifying is always exciting especially the bumps in Turn 3. We didn’t have a good practice session today but the testing we had last week helped us to understand where the car needs to be for qualifying. At the time when I had attacked we were fifth out-it felt pretty good. I was happy with the balance and the speed and it all looked pretty strong at the time. In the end, the field is pretty tight and I’m not super happy with our position but we have a better car in race trim so we’ll see in the final warmup.”

Graham Rahal: “This Mi-Jack team is going to continue to work hard. We wanted to be the fastest Honda but ended up second fastest. For whatever reason we struggled in a little in Turns 3 and 4 but overall that was a decent qualifying run. We got a little conservative maybe on downforce. I told our guys that I thought if we were a little more trim (on aerodynamic setup) and the balance was right, we could go quicker. We didn’t have a good practice this morning and didn’t get a good read on our qualifying simulation. It’s hard as a single car team; we’re kind of guessing. Race day is a whole different animal. We’re going to do our best to get this car to the front.”

Conor Daly: “For us we were just taking a big swing at it to be honest. We had a lot of downforce in practice but for qualifying we trimmed it out. We definitely took a chance. I think we were a little bit forward on the front grip so it was a little sketchy on the way in which was keeping us from being flat. That said, overall I think we’re much better than when we tested here and that was our goal in the end.”

Gabby Chaves: “I think we had a really good balance at the end of our run in practice. Obviously, we had a little too much drag on the car so we took that off for qualifying and the balance was a little different and I think that’s what kept us from being higher up. We had pretty good pace, if we were just able to keep the car flat all around the lap, I think we would have been right up there with the fastest of Hondas. That’s how we learn I guess. It’s definitely encouraging for tomorrow. We took some big steps here.”

Ed Carpenter: “I’m a little disappointed, to be honest! I thought we were going to be a little bit better than that. We had a little too much balance in there. I was hoping for a top-five starting spot, but we’ve just had a rough year. We had a great car this morning in our long runs, which is really good. I just came out here thinking we were going to be a little better than 7th.”

Josef Newgarden: “You always wish you had a little more when you’re sitting second! That’s the beauty of hindsight. We did everything we could with our information. It was tough because I didn’t get to test, but J.R.(Hildebrand) did such a great job for us last week at the test. He got the car in an awesome place, we just missed it by a whisker there. We have a great racecar and we really have an opportunity to make something happen. We’ve had two good races here over the past couple of years, I think we’ve got another shot to get a win this time.”

Simon Pagenaud: “That’s pretty cool isn’t it. 500 [poles for Penske Racing]- how cool is that.  It is just qualifying and we still have a lot of work to do this weekend but it certainly is a great stamp on the work the No. 22 team has been doing, as well as the whole Penske organization. We work, all four of us together, with Helio (Castroneves), Juan (Pablo Montoya) and Will (Power) makes it really nice to go to work in the morning. We manage to make the car better together and it shows on the race track.  Super proud of everyone with the Menards team. It is fantastic to accomplish success this year. But again, this is qualifying and the big prize is tomorrow when the points come. 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. This Menards car is beautiful. It has been super close all weekend. Super proud of the No. 22 team. Chevy has been incredible giving us so much power and such a good aero kit it’s been comfortable and a lot more to my driving style. 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 a 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.”

Carlos Munoz: “That was a really hard qualifying for sure. We’re missing a little bit of balance in general. We have to work hard tonight. That wasn’t the qualifying we were hoping for. We were hoping for a little bit better. You know, last year we started similar to this place and we finished fifth, so we will see where it goes tomorrow.”

Marco Andretti: “I think if I would’ve turned down in the bumps in (Turns) 3 and 4 during qualifying, it would’ve been a repeat of this morning (when the No. 27 car spun). We can’t get a handle on the back end right now, we’re just so loose. It has definitely been a trying few days here – both the test and today.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “This morning we were doing a simulation run for qualifying, and had a car come out in front of me in the middle of the corner. I just lost it, the rear end came around and we couldn’t keep it off the wall. Luckily the DHL crew got us back out before the end of the session, but we lost a little time. We were hoping for more in qualifying. The car just got loose on me out there, a big push, everything. I was doing everything I could to keep off the wall. It’s something we just have to keep working hard at.”

Jack Hawksworth: “Interesting qualifying. I thought we were ok this afternoon compared to this morning when we were a bit weak in qualifying trim. They changed some bits and pieces and it was where we were at the test in terms of feeling which I liked. We had too much understeer in the car and too much scrub in our run, which probably hurt us a little bit but the good thing is we got the feeling back with the rear which I had at the test. Hopefully we can put that into the race car and do some more work tonight.”

Charlie Kimball: “It was reasonably slippery out there. I was surprised at how low grip it actually was, but the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet felt pretty good regardless. The first couple of laps it was pretty free and I was sliding a lot, but I made some adjustments to my tools and took a really big swing at it and had to pedal it a bit. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys started this morning with a good car after learning a lot from Max after his test here last week and Scott’s tire test early in the year. I haven’t seen this place since last year, but it’s probably a good thing with how the bumps have changed. We’re happy with the fifth-place starting spot and ready to do some work on the race car in tonight’s practice.”

Alexander Rossi: “That was tough. The track warmed up quite a bit from practice where I was happy with the car and that penalized us. We need to go back and make sure that’s the reason because tomorrow afternoon will be just as hot. We have some thinking to do.”

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