Jul 5, 2014
LONG POND, Pa. -- Juan Pablo Montoya stood tall in the late-afternoon session of "Can you top me in the Poconos?"
The final competitor in single-car qualifications for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco broke the one- and two-lap track records to earn his first Verizon P1 Award of the season and 15th of his Indy car career.
Montoya recorded a first lap of 223.920 mph and a two-lap average of 223.871 mph on the 2.5-mile tri-oval in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske car to break the year-old records set by Marco Andretti, including the two-lap average of 221.273 mph in Indy car racing's return to Pocono Raceway after a 24-year absence. Denny Hamlin holds the NASCAR Cup Series record of 181.415 mph, set on June 6.
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Eleven drivers were faster than the 2013 two-lap average speed.
NBCSN will televise the 200-lap race -- the middle round of the Triple Crown series -- at noon (ET) July 6. The 500-mile races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 30 carry double points. Will Power, the championship front-runner who will join Montoya and rookie Carlos Munoz on the front row for the three-wide start, takes a 39-point leader over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves entering Round 11 of 18.
Montoya is the eighth different Verizon P1 Award winner this season.
Montoya's last Indy car pole came at Surfers Paradise in October 2000. He earned the pole for the August 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono. Several drivers have won Indy car and stock car races at the same venue, including A.J. Foyt and Tony Stewart.
“It’s the luck of the draw, but the big thing was we had good balance,” said Montoya, who returned to Indy car racing this season after 14 years competing in Formula One and stock car racing. "Am I back? Well, I’m getting there. I feel like I’m getting there every week. We keep working harder and keep finding speed and more results. So it’s exciting. I think we’re going in the right direction.
“(The track is) so different (from NASCAR). We run wide open all the way around here. I think the average speed is 30 or 40 miles per hour faster than we do in a Cup car. It’s fast.”
Castroneves, the sixth qualifier, set the one-lap track record (222.521 mph) and was the provisional pole sitter until Andretti stepped up with a lap of 222.754 mph and two-lap average of 222.715. A few minutes later, Takuma Sato rose to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 222.804 and two-lap average of 222.798. But his time atop the chart was short-lived as Power chimed in with a best lap of 223.820 and two-lap average of 223.725 mph.
"It's always good to start at the front," said Power, claimed his fourth front-row start of the season. "You've got less of a chance of getting caught up in something at the start of the race and probably on restarts, as well. Apart from that, you look at (Scott) Dixon who won it last year and all the Ganassi cars last year came from quite a ways back. Strategy is going to be a big deal, fuel windows and so on. If you qualify last, you can win from last. But it is good to be in the front."
Sato (222.798 mph), Andretti (222.715) and James Hinchcliffe (222.544) will occupy Row 2.
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