Helio Castroneves and Will Power led a strong Saturday performance by Team Penske at Iowa Speedway as they swept the top two positions in the final qualifying heat race for Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 250.
Castroneves won the 50-lap heat race by 3.1480 seconds in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. By doing so, he claimed the nine championship points for winning the race to further extend his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
“I tell you, what a great job by the Hitachi team and my engineer Jonathan (Diuguid) and John (Erickson) calling the race strategy,” said Castroneves, who secured his 37th career IndyCar pole position. “It’s always great to win the pole but it took a lot to get this one and, I have to be honest, we really need those extra points.”
Following the heat race, Team Penske officials decided to change the engine on Castroneves’ car for Sunday’s race and will incur a 10-position starting grid penalty as a result. Castroneves will start 11th in Sunday’s race, as Power will now start from the top position at the drop of the green flag.
Power passed James Hinchcliffe in the second half of the heat race and brought the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet home in second place to earn his fourth front-row starting position of the season. Power also earned eight championship points for the strong qualifying run.
“It’s a really good result for the team and it will be good to start up front tomorrow,” said Power, who won the pole at Iowa in 2010. “The Verizon car was very good today and we feel good about where we are for Sunday’s race. We saw tonight that there could be a lot of action in the race tomorrow so we’ll see how things play out.”
Saturday’s effort marked the first Verizon P1 pole award of the season for Castroneves as he earned his fifth top-two qualifying result at Iowa in seven races. Castroneves, who has produced top-10 finishes in eight of nine races this year – including a win at Texas – will be looking for his first career victory at Iowa Speedway and the first at the venue for Team Penske on Sunday.
“We have led a lot of laps here and been in a good position before and something always seems to happen here in Iowa,” said Castroneves, who will carry a 25-point lead in the championship standings over Ryan Hunter-Reay into Sunday’s race. “Hopefully, we will be able to finally deliver tomorrow but we will have our work cut out for us and we just have to keep being consistent and patient. That is what’s worked for us so far.”