Marco Andretti wins Verizon P1 Award for Milwaukee

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Marco Andretti joked that a victory in the Milwaukee IndyFest would top any Father’s Day card he could present June 16.

His father and team owner agreed.

“I couldn't ask for a better present,” Michael Andretti said. “It would be great for him for his championship (chase) to get those points, but also it would be another special family moment at Milwaukee if that were to happen.”

Michael Andretti earned five Indy car victories as a driver and has four as a team owner at The Milwaukee Mile. Andretti Sports Marketing, an arm of Andretti Autosport, is the promoter of the event this weekend.

Click it: Milwaukee IndyFest qualifying results

“So many special things have happened (at The Milwaukee Mile) with me,” he continued. “It's the only all-family podium that we had back in 1991 where myself, my Dad (Mario) and my cousin (John) on there.”

Marco Andretti, who is 21 points arrears of front-runner Helio Castroneves in the championship standings, had a good start in accomplishing his immediate goal by earning the Verizon P1 Award for the 250-lap race June 15. Driving the No. 25 RC Cola car, he buried the racetrack two-lap qualifying record set in 2012 by Dario Franchitti (168.737 mph average) with an average speed of 170.515 mph.

“So far, that was about as good as we could run, so I’m pleased," said Andretti, who earned his first pole in the series at Milwaukee in 2008. "I think the RC Cola car will be tough to beat, which is obviously why we come here, but if we can grab a (bonus) point let’s do it. A win would be huge. I told Dad that hopefully (the pole) is only half of his Father’s Day gift."

Andretti is the sixth different pole winner in nine races in this unconventional season. There have been seven different winners representing five teams. James Hinchcliffe is the lone two-time winner, and he'll start next to his teammate on the front row -- tying his series best in 2012 at Barber Motorsports Park -- in the No. 27 car. Hinchcliffe recorded the fastest lap of the weekend (170.868 mph) on Lap 1 of qualifying.

“Don’t’ tell Marco, but the outside is way better on the start," Hinchcliffe said. "That is what I was going for. Man, the third time starting second; it’s always the bridesmaid, never the bride. For where we were, especially at practice, the front row, I will take it."

Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (170.100) and E.J. Viso (169.828) -- the other two Andretti Autosport drivers -- qualified fourth and fifth, respectively. Will Power broke up the Andretti Autosport roll by qualifying third (170.212) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

"I thought we might have enough for pole today but I made a little mistake on the last lap and we just missed it," said Power, who was .0763 of a second behind Andretti's total time. "I think the Verizon Chevy will be pretty good in the race. We’re not sure what the weather will be – we hope the rain stays away, especially for the fans – but it should be a good race.”

Sebastian Saavedra qualified a career-best sixth in the No. 6 Dragon Racing car, while Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan qualified seventh and Josef Newgarden made it two in a row in the top 10.

Castroneves, a three-time pole winner at Milwaukee and the race winner June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway, tied his season low by qualifying 18th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske car.

“Wow, that was a tough qualifying – one of the toughest of my career," he said. "The PPG Team Penske Chevrolet has been good all day but I think we got a little greedy there. We took a gamble on the downforce, going really low thinking that that the track would be better and it just wasn’t. The car got sideways a couple of times and I’m just glad the car came in on all four wheels. We have a little of work to do in the race but we’ll be ready and hopefully fight for our first win in Milwaukee.”