Saturday, June 27, 2015

Morning Warm-Up: Fontana 2015

Simon Pagenaud and Hélio Castroneves start 1-2 Saturday at Fontana
Simon Pagenaud won his second career pole position a year after his first as the French driver will lead the field to the green flag for the MAVTV 500 from Fontana. This is his first career oval pole position. Last year, he start on pole in Houston 1 but an accident took him out of contention for the victory. Pagenaud won the pole with a two-lap average of 218.952 MPH. Today's race occurs 48 years and two days after the last win for car #22 in IndyCar when Wes Vandervoort won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It would be Vandervoort's only IndyCar win in five starts, all occurring at Pikes Peak.  Hélio Castroneves made it another Team Penske 1-2 as the Brazilian qualified with a two-lap average at 218.734 MPH. Marco Andretti starts a season-best third. The Pennsylvania-native qualified nearly a mile per hour off of Castroneves at 217.797 MPH. Ed Carpenter will start a season-best fourth as he was just 0.131 MPH slower than Andretti. Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya rounds out the top five at 217.250 MPH. Montoya is looking to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive after winning the Indianapolis 500 last month.

Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon finished 1-2 last year at Fontana and they will start sixth and seventh after running identical times in qualifying. Each posted two-lap averages at 217.184 MPH. Kanaan starts ahead of Dixon as he qualified before Dixon. Chip Ganassi Racing could score their 100th IndyCar victory this weekend. Will Power starts eighth. The defending IndyCar champion won at Fontana in 2013 and he qualified 0.008 seconds behind the Ganassi duo. Takuma Sato will start ninth and Sage Karam will round out the top ten. Sato and Karam were the final two drivers to qualify above 217 MPH at 217.109 MPH and 217.060 MPH respectively. Sato and Karam got together in turn one, lap one of the Indianapolis 500. Karam's day ended while Sato continued and would manage to finish 13th.

Carlos Muñoz will start 11th at 216.878 MPH with IndyCar's most recent winner Josef Newgarden starting 12th at 216.490 MPH. Californian Charlie Kimball will start 13th, which is the furthest back a Fontana winner has started from. Adrián Fernández won from 13th in 1999. Kimball finished third at Indianapolis last month, his best finish in a 500-mile race. Fernández's victory is the only time a Fontana winner has started outside the top ten. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 14th after posting an average of 215.983 MPH. Hunter-Reay is one of seven drivers on the grid to win a 500-mile race along with Montoya, Castroneves, Kanaan, Carpenter, Dixon and Power. Sébastien Bourdais rounds out the top fifteen at 215.719 MPH.

Ryan Briscoe will start 16th and leads a train of five consecutive Hondas on the grid. Jack Hawksworth will start 17th with his successor at Bryan Herta Autosport Gabby Chaves starting 18th. Hawskworth qualified at 215.346 MPH while Chaves qualified at 213.720 MPH. Graham Rahal starts a season-worst 19th as Tristan Vautier will round out the top twenty. Stefano Coletti will start 21st with Brits Pippa Mann and James Jakes rounding out the grid. Jakes did not make a qualifying attempt after having an engine failure at the end of second practice and not having enough time to change it prior to qualifying.

NBCSN's coverage of the MAVTV 500 will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 4:36 p.m. ET.