TORONTO – As Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud completed what proved to be a pole-winning lap in Saturday’s Honda Indy Toronto qualifying session at Exhibition Place, NTT IndyCar Series rivals were sliding off pace.
Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport bounced off the outside wall in Turn 6, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon spun early in his final timed lap. Neither probably had the speed to match Pagenaud, but it made for an adventurous watch in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session.
“Yeah, that was a pole run right there, man,” Dixon joked before fessing up. “I’d only done two corners, so I have no idea.”
With a lap of 58.4293 seconds/110.041 mph on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary downtown street circuit, the result was Pagenaud’s second pole of the season the 12th career top qualifying position for the driver of the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. In May, Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge from the pole.
QUALIFYING: Official results
HIGHLIGHTS: All the action, in less than five minutes
Pagenaud will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, SiriusXM Radio, Channel 209).
“It was a great day, really,” Pagenaud said. “Great weekend so far. I’ve had the most fun ever in Toronto. The car has just been amazing. The engine, Chevrolet, provided us a bit of an update this weekend, and I think it’s really showing. I think the horsepower down Lake Shore (Boulevard) really helped to get pole. But also, just tying every corner so well together.
“It’s so exciting in the car. I just had so much fun just being on the limit and finding further limits every lap. It was just a great lap. We really put down a big lap and I’m really proud for the DXC Technology people that are here this weekend. It’s a big event for them and I love this track, so it’s great to really be able to kick it to the next gear for the end of the championship.”
Pagenaud had the fastest lap in each of the three practices here, but he respected the potential of Rossi, Dixon and others to knock him off his perch.
“At the end of qualifying, everybody goes out to the maximum limit, so obviously the lap times get closer and closer and closer,” he said.
Pagenaud stopped short of saying the car’s strength has made it a smooth ride this weekend, but he described the performance of the car as versatile and predictable. A driver can extract a lot of speed when those qualities exist in a car.
“It’s honestly a pleasure to drive this weekend,” Pagenaud said. “I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.”
Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, earned the second starting position with a lap of 58.4293 seconds (109.730 mph). Rounding out the top five, respectively, were Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist (58.6793 sec. / 109.572), Rossi (58.9215 / 109.121) and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (59.3103 / 108.406).
Local favorite James Hinchcliffe will start 14th in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Motorsports Honda.