Simon Pagenaud resumed his assault on the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, capturing the Verizon P1 Award today to put him on pole position for the first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.
Pagenaud's fast lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three rounds of knockout qualifying on the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course, was a crisp 1min 14.9166secs in the #22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet. He edged team-mate Helio Castroneves by 0.0119secs and led a Team Penske sweep of the first three qualifying positions at the event that team owner Roger Penske operates.
"I knew the car would be good here because of the way it was in Long Beach (where he qualified third and won the 17 April race
)," said Pagenaud, whose first of seven career Indy car wins came at Belle Isle in 2013, "Just great that we could extract the lap time out of it.
"Obviously there was a bit of strategy on our side with the Firestone tyres. We chose to go on the black Firestone tires [in the Firestone Fast Six]. They're working really well for us and it paid off, so I'm really, really delighted."
Pagenaud, who had a three-race winning streak snapped when he finished 19th in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on 29 May, earned his fifth career Verizon IndyCar Series pole position and third this season. The 32-year old Frenchman hasn't started worse than third on any road or street course in 2016. He took a 57-point championship lead into this weekend, which features the only double-header on the 2016 schedule.
Castroneves, a three-time Belle Isle race winner, shattered the track record in the second segment of qualifying with a top lap of 1min 14.6899secs in the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. It was more than 1.5secs quicker than the old track record established a year ago by Team Penske's Will Power, but Castroneves couldn't match the lap in the Firestone Fast Six and will go off second in Saturday's race.
"I was supposed to do that track record on the last one, not the first one," joked the Brazilian, who earned the first of his 29 career IndyCar wins on Belle Isle in 2000, "But, at the end of the day, you don't pick and choose. ... At least starting on the front row is always good, so we'll go get them tomorrow."
Juan Pablo Montoya will start third in the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet with a final-round lap of 1min 15.5659secs, with only James Hinchcliffe, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter in the #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, breaking the Penske run up front by qualifying fourth.
Row three will consist of Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz in the #26 Magneti Marelli Honda and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Both are past Belle Isle winners, Munoz in the first race of last year's Dual and Dixon in 2012 when a single race was run.
Twenty-two cars are slated to take the green flag Saturday. American Alexander Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500 five days ago, will start 17th Saturday in the #98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda.