Castroneves Race 2 Pole

HOUSTON -- Earning the Verizon P1 Award for Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston set up Helio Castroneves to carve into Team Penske teammate Will Power's championship lead.

Driving the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Premium Team Penske car, Castroneves recorded a quick lap of 59.1702 seconds in Group 2 of qualifications. Two groups were set based on June 27 combined practice times for 12 minutes of track time for each group. Drivers in Group 2, with the quickest lap time, occupy the odd-numbered positions of the starting lineup.

"It's the right place to start and the right car to start because it carries the race sponsor," said Castroneves, who earned his second pole of the season and 40th of his career to tie Rick Mears for fourth on the all-time list.

Click it: Race 2 starting lineup and tire designation || Qualifying results

Castroneves, who won Dual 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on June 1, trails Power by 31 points entering the 90-lap feature on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Power will start 18th for the second consecutive race in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

"Another hard day. Just really puzzled as to what we are lacking here in qualifying at Houston," Power said. "We'll have to go to work and come up with a strategy that we can use to get toward the front."

No driver this season has won from the pole. Castroneves started from the pole in Dual 1 at Belle Isle, which was won by Power, who started 16th.

Mikhail Aleshin, who had qualified a season-high 10th in Race 1, significantly bettered than by leading the way in Group 1 with a lap of 1:00.2493 in the No. 7 SMP Racing car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to join Castroneves on Row 1.

"It was a good result for our team after yesterday," said Aleshin, who is competing in his 11th Verizon IndyCar Series race, "and a good way to recover."

Aleshin's race ended on Lap 33 after contact with Takuma Sato in Turn 6, and he finished 23rd. 

Aleshin's teammate, Simon Pagenaud, who earned the Verizon P1 Award for Race 1, will share Row 2 with Graham Rahal, who also posted his best qualifying effort of the season.

Castroneves started from the pole in Race 2 at Houston last October (based on entrant points as rain washed out qualifications), but a mechanical issue early in the race relegated him to 23rd place. The result in the penultimate race of the season significantly impacted his championship aspirations. He entered the race 49 points ahead of Scott Dixon and left trailing the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver by 25 points.