Simon Pagenaud on Pole at Toronto

Simon Pagenaud earned his first pole of the season today, on the streets of Toronto. The defending series champion posted a lap of 58.9124 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six, which was nearly a second faster than the track record. It is the 10th career pole for Pagenaud, and the 253rd for Team Penske in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Graham Rahal will be joining Pagenaud on the front row, in what was an impressive run on Saturday afternoon. Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power will share Row 2, while current championship points leader Scott Dixon starts in Row 3 alongside Canadian hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe. Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, and Takuma Sato rounded out the top ten qualifiers on Saturday.

Qualification Results for the Honda Indy Toronto

Marco Andretti starts 11th tomorrow, and JR Hildebrand 12th. It was a rough afternoon for Hildebrand, as he made hard contact with the wall during qualifications. Esteban Gutierrez also found the wall, with much heavier contact that saw his Dale Coyne machine severely damaged. It was the second incident of the weekend for Gutierrez.

A pair of former champions and Indy 500 winners will be starting in the back of the pack tomorrow. Tony Kanaan qualified 14th and Ryan Hunter-Reay 16th, respectively. Sebastian Saavedra is behind the wheel of the No. 7 SPM Honda this weekend, and qualified 20th. Spencer Pigot is back in the No. 20 ECR machine, and starts just behind his teammate.

Penske took the top three spots in the first practice session on Friday, the top spot in the second session, and swept the top four spots in practice this morning. It was Pagenaud that delivered the goods for The Captain in qualifying.

The race distance is 85 laps, which is 151.81 miles around the 1.786-mile 11-turn street circuit. Dixon earned pole last year, and Power is the defending race winner. Coverage for the Honda Indy Toronto begins at 3 PM ET on CNBC.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It was a really good lap, one of the best I’ve ever put together. Certainly, there is not much more in it, but the whole qualifying I worked on details and driving. My teammates, they are tremendous. It’s such a good atmosphere when we work together. Each practice we talked about how we manage the corners and we keep improving each other. I feel like I really extracted the best out of my car, the best out of my setup today. It’s obviously the most satisfying thing and that is what I’m always seeking for.”

Josef Newgarden: “We just missed the Firestone Fast Six by like a tenth of a second or something. I didn’t get it done. The margins in this series are razor thin and sometimes you come up on the short end. The DeVilbiss Chevrolet guys have worked hard and the car is really solid. It’s not like all is lost or anything. We’ll start seventh and go to work from there.”

Helio Castroneves: “It was pretty good. The Hitachi Chevy was running really, really good. Obviously my teammates, we’re all working together, pushing each other, and in my group, the car was running really smooth, picking up a little bit of understeer with the blacks (Firestone primary tires), so I was trying to make some adjustments. That’s the fun part about it, you start making some adjustments and try to rush into it. But it worked pretty well and we saved the best for last. But definitely Simon (Pagenaud) put up a phenomenal lap out there. I mean, I wish I would have started with brand new (tires) instead of stopping and coming back in, so it would have given us a little bit more of a possibility to keep pushing every lap.”

Conor Daly: “I think we gained a good amount from the first set of reds (Firestone alternate tires) to the next. We’ve improved with every set of tires we put on, which is good, but we’re just not there yet. We understand that it is still taking some time for us. I think we can be happy with the gains we made and I think we’ll have a good car for the race. The key is consistency and being able to take advantage of other people’s mistakes. There’s a lot going on around here. The walls are very close. So taking advantage of other people’s mistakes and maybe some strategic play could work for us. There’s a lot about this race that’s interesting.”

James Hinchcliffe: “It’s always tricky qualifying here. This track is one of the those with all the surface changes and where the walls are, it’s tough to get that lap on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). We caught a break in Segment 1 because we were on our fastest lap outside of the top six when Esteban [Gutierrez] had his accident. That obviously knocked him back and put us through to the next round. Then we were on our out lap in Segment 2 when the red (flag) came out which set up the one-lap dash, and I just committed everything I had into that last lap and I snuck into the Firestone Fast Six. I’m really proud of the SPM Arrow guys – top six two years in a row, and last year we turned it into a podium, so let’s hope for more of the same tomorrow.”

Sebastian Saavedra: “I’m disappointed, of course… feeling bittersweet because I’m very excited to be here, but at the same time, we had a lot more in the No. 7 Honda-powered machine (in qualifying). I just felt that I waited a bit too long on that red (Firestone alternate tire) stint, which hurt us with the red flag. We probably could have battled with (James) Hinch(cliffe) or (Ryan) Hunter-Reay. I don’t think we would have been quicker than Hinch, but I think we had the potential to be up there. The big progression we’ve had in only three sessions has been incredible, so huge thanks to the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports organization. They’ve made me feel at home and helped me get the rust off and get up to speed so quickly. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow; it’s a long race and I’m very satisfied with the car we’ve put together. We’ll see what happens, maybe with some weather, it should be fun.”

Max Chilton: “Qualifying wasn’t terrible, but we’ve had better results on road and street circuits this year, and we were obviously hoping for more. We would have loved to get through into the final round but just didn’t get there. We have some work to do tonight but I’m confident we’ll have a good Gallagher car tomorrow for the race here in Toronto.”

Scott Dixon: “It’s been a rough start to the weekend for us. We really struggled finding the right balance for the car. From last year to this year, we’ve been dealing with a completely different configuration. I thought some of the gains we made this year on other street courses didn’t translate here for some reason. We reverted back to our setup yesterday in the NTT Data car when we were in the top three, but it’s just a handful around here. We had a great lap going, but I smashed the fence in Turn 6 in qualifying on the second lap, which cost us at least one spot I think. All in all my hands are full, but hopefully we can make some small improvements to get the car a bit better for the race tomorrow.”

Tony Kanaan:
 “I’m disappointed with where we qualified today. We had a top-10 car in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda, but our qualifying effort obviously doesn’t show it. I got held up on my fast lap in the first round, but we just couldn’t avoid it. It’s difficult when you do what you need to do to advance, but something else that you can’t control takes it away. We have a hard day of working our way back to the front tomorrow, but we know our car is faster than where we’re starting, so we’ll take advantage of that and make it back to where we need to be.”

Will Power: 
“Obviously, the cars are really good. My qualifying on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) was really fast. Definitely the car felt good, a bit on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). Didn’t get a good read on that when it went red there. I only had one lap and it had a lot of push, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe the fronts weren’t in,’ and then didn’t have time to make a change for the Firestone Fast Six. Just a big imbalance, and got as much as I could out of it, as it was, so starting fourth is pretty good around here. Try to keep out of the mess.”

Carlos Munoz: 
“Really disappointing qualifying session. In Practice 3 we were looking good (10th). Yesterday we couldn’t try the red (Firestone alternate) tires (electrical issues) and there was some balance change in the car when we ran them in qualifying today. Starting from the back tomorrow. Hopefully we have crazy weather tomorrow to help us to go to the front, but I’m really disappointed for the team because in Practice 3 we were not looking bad.”

Graham Rahal: “That was awesome. I couldn’t be more proud of the Rousseau team. These boys have worked so hard and we put it together in (the Firestone Fast Six). To finish second in (the Firestone Fast Six) after seeing how dominant Penske was all weekend, that’s better than a pole for me. We can definitely race them hard from here. I think we have a pretty good race car.  We just need to settle her down a little bit. Those Penske’s had new reds (Firestone alternate tires) to finish qualifying and I’m really surprised Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power) didn’t get us. I think it’s going to be a great race tomorrow. Trust me, we’re going to give them everything we’ve got. We need good points here. We want to get a win. When you have a car like this, and a team like this, it makes it a lot more confidence inspiring. When you go out there, you know that you have what it takes to get the job done. They have made my life a lot easier and I am proud of them. A result like this is great for all of our partners.”

Esteban Gutierrez: “It was not ideal obviously, it’s been a tough weekend overall. Yesterday we lost a bit of track time due to contact in Turn 1 and today it was a pretty hard hit in a high-speed corner. I was having some understeer and I was trying to anticipate a bit the entry of the corner, but I touched the inside wall a bit and it sent me straight into the outside wall, pretty hard. It’s unfortunate and I feel really bad for the team, they have a lot of work to do.”

Ed Jones: “It was a tough qualifying, but the jump with the Firestone reds (alternate tires) was very big. I thought I did a pretty good lap, but I missed by just a little bit, like a tenth, to advance to the fast 12. It was close, as usual, but frustrating at the same time, but I’m sure we can have a good race tomorrow.”

Spencer Pigot: “It’s a little frustrating to miss transferring again by such a small margin – a hundredth of a second! – but that’s the nature of Indy car racing. It’s always extremely close. We’ve made good progress with the car over the weekend, especially on black tires. Hopefully that will be the tire of choice for the race tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy.”

JR Hildebrand: “I’m happy to have advanced on to the second round of qualifying. That was definitely on our list of ways to improve through the second half of the season. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken us this long to do it, but it’s a step in the right direction. The car was quite good, I just made a mistake in the second round and got into the wall. I owe the Preferred Freezer guys some beers. Hopefully, we can maintain the trajectory of our weekend and get ready for a good race tomorrow.”

Takuma Sato: “I’m disappointed with the qualifying result. We had a good car and had a good lap time in the first round. We moved on to the second (segment) and until the red flag, the car felt quite positive. We ran into traffic on the last lap of the session – there was only one lap to qualify after the red flag – so we didn’t make it. It’s a shame, but we will concentrate on tomorrow’s race. It will be a survival race and hopefully we will have a good car and good race tomorrow.”

Marco Andretti: 
“The final result is not our full potential, we were faster than where we ended. We advanced to Segment 2, and after the red flag (Josef) Newgarden didn’t get going up to speed in front of us, so we had cold tires on the only lap we had to make it in (to the Firestone Fast Six). I had to clutch in trying to open a gap and I still couldn’t get away from him. The tires were just too cold for the one lap and is disappointing because the UFD car had so much more in it.”

Charlie Kimball: “Honestly, kind of a frustrating session. If we would’ve run that lap time in the second group, we would have advanced to the top 12, but instead we’re on the ninth row. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow. I think the Firestone alternates (tires) aren’t holding up quite as long as the Firestone primaries, so that’ll definitely play into what we do strategy-wise. We’ve got to work the strategy and take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of us. We’re making the car better, but we just didn’t find as much lap time as we were hoping to find.”

Alexander Rossi: “Today was a big step forward from yesterday. I have to credit the team for making the right changes overnight – we were much more competitive today. I think we had a shot at the (Firestone) Fast Six, but the red flag at the end of the session only allowed us to have one lap. It’s harder for us to get fast lap times on new tires early in the stint than it seems for other teams. The (qualifying) result is unfortunate, but it’s a lot better than we were looking last night.”

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