Helio Castroneves earned the Verizon P1 Award for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship-deciding MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The pole was the 41st of Castroneves’ career, breaking a tie with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears for fourth all-time in Indy car history.
Castroneves, the last of 22 qualifiers, recorded a two-lap average of 218.540 mph in the No. 3 AAA Southern California Team Penske car on the 2-mile oval as the track temperature reached 134 degrees.
Castroneves earned one bonus point for the pole and trails championship front-runner and teammate Will Power by 50 points entering the 250-lap season finale. The final leg of the Triple Crown series is worth double points.
Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya recorded a two-lap average of 217.621 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car to qualify second. Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car, also qualified on the front row (217.600 mph) for the three-wide start.
“It ain’t over; it’s just beginning,” said Castroneves, who earned his third pole of the season and third since 2003 at Auto Club Speedway. “Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles and finish where we started.”
Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, qualified a season-low 21st with a two-lap average of 212.604 mph. Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, the third driver eligible for the championship, qualified 13th at 215.752 mph.
“With the starting position, I’d rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early on,” Power said. “It’s obviously all about the race; it’s very long and we’ll be racing in different conditions.”
Power earned the pole for the October 2013 race at Auto Club Speedway with an average speed of 220.775 mph – a two-lap track record – and went on to win for the first time on a superspeedway.
Team owner Roger Penske is aiming for his 13th Indy car championship since 1977 with Tom Sneva and the first since 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.
“I always tell our guys if one driver wins the team wins,” Penske said. “We got here because it was a team effort.”