Once again, it was a Team Penske 1-2-3, but this time it was led by Simon Pagenaud. The 35-year-old Frenchman kept the momentum rolling to claim pole for tomorrow night’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet outlasted treacherous track conditions that exceeded 125 degrees to put down a monstrous two-lap average at 180.073 mph (35.7455s) around the 0.894-mile oval, edging out teammate Will Power by 0.0963s.
“It was very intense,” said Pagenaud. “In these conditions, the car can slide around quite a bit. It’s all about having the right balance on the race car. So we had a good snapshot this morning of how the car was. We ran quite a bit in traffic and we knew we had to make some adjustments to be a really strong on long runs. Then at the end, we did a qualifying run and felt pretty good. That was very intense qualifying. I’m still shaking, but that’s what IndyCar is all about.”
The result marks the third pole – and second consecutive – of the season for Pagenaud, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion. It also marks the fifth consecutive pole for Team Penske at Iowa.
“There’s very strong competition within the team, but as you can see, Team Penske is phenomenal,” said Pagenaud.
“They give us the fastest car. I think Team Chevy also as a big part in this. They’ve made such an improvement. Since Toronto, we’ve definitely seemed to have the the upper hand. Team Penske, man, they just keep plugging away all season long and we’re really right now hitting our stride. So I’m definitely happy to be ahead of my teammates. You know, Josef is my main competition this year. So I got to grab any points I can get, be aggressive, show authority. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the 22 car.”
Power, pole winner the last two years at Iowa, believed the run was “good,” but was left wondering how it wasn’t enough to continue the streak.
“Is it any surprise that I’m second? Because it isn’t to me,” confessed Power. “It’s just this year. It’s just every time it’ll be that.”
After leading opening practice, NTT IndyCar Series championship leader Josef Newgarden could only manage third-best in qualifying with a two-lap run of 179.449 mph.
“We were third, it wasn’t good enough so we’ll just focus on tomorrow,” said a dejected Newgarden, winner at Iowa in 2016.
When approached about the fact the polesitter has never won in all 12 previous races at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden simply said, “I’m not big into stats.”
While Chevrolet enjoyed nailing down the top three positions, the rest of the top 12 were represented by Honda, led by Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) in fourth at 177.646 mph.
Defending racing winner James Hinchcliffe (Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) ended up fifth at 176.200 mph.
Alexander Rossi provided the best performance for Andretti Autosport after qualifying sixth, with Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) seventh. Reigning and five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) came away with eighth, while three-time Iowa race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay will start from ninth, followed by rookie Marcus Ericsson (Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports).