LONG POND, Pennsylvania – Regarded for a fearless demeanor on the racetrack, Takuma Sato showed it again in winning the Verizon P1 Award during ABC Supply 500 qualifying at Pocono Raceway.
The Andretti Autosport driver put together two spine-tingling laps at 219.639 mph to earn the pole position for Sunday’s 500-mile race on the 2.5-mile triangular oval. The ABC Supply 500 is the 14th of 17 races in the intensely competitive 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
ABC SUPPLY 500: Qualifying results
Sato was the final driver to make a qualifying attempt, going out just after teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed on the warmup lap before his own attempt. Sato, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, put aside any reservations to collect his second pole position of 2017 and the seventh of his eight-year Verizon IndyCar Series career.
“Yes, it made me nervous,” Sato said. “Ryan and I share a lot of philosophy and setup. What happens to him is what could happen to me, too.
“Basically, (my) engineer just went through (as much) data as possible at that particular moment and we backed off a little bit (of) front wing to a little bit secure the rear. … I got a good feeling on that warmup lap and I couldn’t believe it.
“Obviously, the engineers and guys did an incredible job. What an incredible achievement for Andretti Autosport.”
Sato’s run in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda knocked reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud from the top qualifying spot. Pagenaud settled for second in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, with a two-lap averages of 219.395 mph.
“Almost. We were just a little short,” Pagenaud said. “Actually, the DXC Technology Chevrolet was very enjoyable. The balance was perfect.
“Starting position here isn’t quite what it is at some other places since the race is 500 miles. A lot of things can happen, but the good thing is that the car has good balance and worked well in traffic during the morning session. I think we’ll have a good car for the race.”
Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan locked up the second row in qualifying. Kimball was third in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda (219.369 mph), with Kanaan fourth in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda (219.012 mph).
“I honestly didn’t expect our run to be that good,” Kimball said. “I’m really proud of that effort from the whole crew. Everyone from Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing really put their heads down between practice and qualifying and made some pretty significant changes that put us right there in the window.”
Championship leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske qualified 14th in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet (217.235 mph). Newgarden leads teammate Helio Castroneves by seven points and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon by eight points heading into Sunday’s race.
Hunter-Reay was among three drivers unable to complete qualifications attempts who will start from the rear of the 22-car grid on Sunday. Driving the No. 28 DHL Honda, Hunter-Reay spun exiting Turn 3 on his warmup lap, with the left side of the car making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier before it slid down the track and made secondary contact with the inside wall on the front straight.
Hunter-Reay limped to the INDYCAR medical response vehicle with help from the Holmatro Safety Team. After being evaluated at the track’s infield care center by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director, Hunter-Reay was transported by ground to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest for further evaluation. INDYCAR will issue updates to Hunter-Reay’s condition when they are available.
Castroneves lost control of his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet heading into Turn 1 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt. The car’s left side made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier, but Castroneves walked away uninjured. The Brazilian veteran will start from the outside of Row 10 in Sunday’s race.
Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter crashed in nearly the same place as Hunter-Reay in Turn 3 during morning practice. Carpenter was not injured. The No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet sustained significant left-side damage that the crew was unable to repair in time to put the car into the qualifying technical inspection line. Carpenter did not make a qualifying attempt and will start last in the race.
Sunday’s race will be the 24th for Indy cars at Pocono Raceway dating to 1971. Live coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.