Carlos Munoz was devastated when he didn't win the historic 100th Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, but the Colombian was able to gain a little solace by taking the Verizon P1 Award and will start from the pole position in Saturday's Firestone 600.
Driving the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda, Munoz earned the first pole of his four-year Verizon IndyCar Series career with a two-lap qualifying average of 217.137mph on the 1.455-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway. The 24-year old's previous best qualifying effort in 45 previous starts was at his very first race, where he lined up second at the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
"To be honest, I didn't expect that speed," Munoz admitted, "I thought we would do something around 216mph, but I was happy with the speed we were doing. It's my first pole - I was looking at the [Verizon P1 Award] hat and it looks really nice. I'm really happy for all of my team after Indy."
Starting second in the race will be Scott Dixon, the 2015 Firestone 600 winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Dixon's two-lap average in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was 216.901mph.
"The car was surprisingly good to drive," said Dixon, second in the point standings to Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud after eight of 16 races. "In these situations, you trim out a lot. You're on the edge and if you miss by a little bit, it can be a bit of a handful, but the balance is really good.
"It's nice to start at the front. I don't think it's a really big deal where you qualify as long as you're up towards the front, but it's always great to be near the pointy end of the field."
All drivers posted a qualifying attempt except Gabby Chaves, who crashed the #19 Boy Scouts of America Honda in morning practice and will start Saturday's 248-lap race at the rear of the grid.
Munoz was the fifth qualifier and had to wait nervously as Dixon, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and other standouts took their shots. Castroneves wound up third in the #3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet at 216.740mph.
"I like where we are starting and we hope to bring home a good result," the Brazilian, whose four Indy car wins at Texas are more than anyone, said.
Takuma Sato, in the #14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda, actually posted a qualifying speed equal to Castroneves, but will start fourth because his two-lap time was 0.0001secs slower. It is Sato's best Texas qualifying effort in eight tries and the best for the Foyt team since Billy Boat started second and won the 1998 June race.
"Working with AJ, he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the #14 car," Sato said, "so we're very happy, especially since this is our home track."
Championship leader Simon Pagenaud qualified sixth and Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi was ninth.
Another Verizon IndyCar Series practice is scheduled for Friday evening before Saturday's race.