HOUSTON -- Simon Pagenaud earned his first Indy car career Verizon P1 Award, recording the quickest lap in the Firestone Fast Six for Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers.
It also was the first pole for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports since June 2011 -- also in Texas -- with Alex Tagliani at Texas Motor Speedway. Pagenaud, who won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10 from the fourth starting position, turned a quick lap of 59.3716 seconds in the 10-minute session.
"The car is awesome and has been all weekend," said Pagenaud, who is fourth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. “This is really awesome for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports and for myself really. We’ve been knocking on the door in qualifying and (winning the pole) is really awesome. Qualifying well is super important (at Houston) because passing opportunities are not as big as they are on an oval or even at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis – especially with a standing start, because (from that position) there’s much less chance of not having problems.
"It's going to be a long and physical race, but we'll be ready."
The 90-lap race on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit at NRG Park will be telecast at 3 p.m. (ET) on NBCSN.
Six different teams were represented in the Firestone Fast Six. Pagenaud is the seventh different pole sitter in the nine races.
Click it: Qualifying results || Race 1 starting lineup and tire designation
"When you're positioned to win, you have to take advantage of the points and we're poised to do that," Pagenaud added.
Helio Castroneves was .0747 of a second back in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Premium Team Penske car and will start on the front row for the second time this season. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon qualified a season-high third in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, while Luca Filippi qualified a career-best fourth. He is competing in his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series race and first with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato will occupy Row 3. Sato, who earned the Verizon P1 Award for Race 1 at Houston last October, posted a best lap of 59.2248 seconds in Round 2. His pole-winning time last year was 60.4535 seconds.
Listen: Simon Pagenaud post-qualifying news conference
Championship points leader Will Power will start 18th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. He started 14th and finished second at Long Beach and won the first race of the Belle Isle doubleheader after starting 16th. Power takes a 39-point lead over teammate Castroneves into Race 1.
"It's a much more difficult track to come from the back," he said. "But in IndyCar races anything can happen."
A look at the race weekend
TV: NBCSN telecasts both races live (3 p.m. ET on June 28 and 29). Race 1 qualifications (2 p.m., taped) will lead into the June 28 race telecast. Leigh Diffey is the chief announcer. Paul Tracy and Steve Matchett are the analysts.
Radio/web: All Verizon IndyCar Series sessions are broadcast on www.IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR 14 app in conjunction with real-time Timing & Scoring. In addition, the races will be broadcast on IMS Radio Network affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213. Paul Page is the chief announcer.
Twitter: @GPHOU, @IndyCar, #GPHOU
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy; highs in the upper 80s
Race laps: 90 in counterclockwise direction on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit
Start: Standing start for Race 1; two-wide rolling start for Race 2 … single-file restarts
Pit box dimensions: 35 x 18 feet
Fuel: 60 U.S. gallons of E85 for each race ... Verizon IndyCar Series cars carry 18.5 U.S. gallons
Tires: The Firestone primary tires are the same construction and compound as used at St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Belle Isle earlier this season. The same alternate tires are being used on all street course races this season.
Engines: 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6s supplied by Chevrolet and Honda ... 150 kPa turbo boost for road/street course races; 160 kPa for push to pass (10 pushes for 15-second activation)
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