Sunday, August 23, 2015

Morning Warm-Up: Pocono 2015

Hélio Castroneves looks to keep his title hopes alive from pole
For the fourth time in 2015, Hélio Castroneves will start from pole position. The Brazilian won pole position with a two-lap average of 220.530 MPH. This is Castroneves' 45th career pole and first at Pocono Raceway. Castroneves has not won a race from pole position since Motegi 2010. He finished second last year at Pocono and finished eighth at the 2.5-mile track the year before that. Simon Pagenaud made it an all-Penske front row with a two-lap average of 220.485 MPH. Pagenaud has finished sixth in the last two Pocono races. This is the eighth time in 2015 that Penske has swept the front row and third time this season on an oval.

Will Power made it a clean sweep of the top three for Penske as the Australian had a two-lap average of 220.393 MPH. He has finished fourth and tenth in his two Pocono starts. Josef Newgarden will start on the outside of row two. Like Newgarden, has one top five finish and two top tens in his career at Pocono. Newgarden has started in the top ten in four of six oval races this year. Graham Rahal rounds out the top five. This is Rahal's best starting position this season and his best starting position on an oval since he started third at Texas in 2012. In that Texas race, Rahal led as he started the final lap but brushed the wall coming to take the white flag and lost the lead on the final lap to Justin Wilson. Rahal was able to limb home to second. Carlos Muñoz rounds out row three. This will be only the second time Muñoz has started in the top ten. He started fourth at Texas.

Justin Wilson qualified seventh with Ryan Hunter-Reay making it an all-Andretti row four. Wilson finished seventh and 14th in his two Pocono appearances while Hunter-Reay has finished 20th and 18th. Takuma Sato qualified ninth, his fifth top ten start of the season and first since Fontana, where he started ninth. Sébastien Bourdais rounds out the top ten and he was the final driver to qualifying within the 219-MPH bracket at 219.521 MPH. This is Bourdais' best start on an oval since he started seventh at Indianapolis.

Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan comprise row six. The Ganassi duo qualified at 218.969 MPH and 218.816 MPH. This will be Dixon's best career start at Pocono. He went from 17th to victory in 2013 and 15th to fifth last year. Dixon enters tied with Al Unser, Jr. and Dan Wheldon for the most IndyCar victories from starting outside the top ten. Dixon has won four times in his career when starting outside the top ten. While Kanaan has led the most laps over the last two Pocono races, he has yet to finish in the top ten at the track as late pit stops due to wing damage and fuel have left him with only finishes of 13th and 11th. Tristan Vautier will start 13th. He started 10th in his lone Pocono start in 2013. He finished two laps down in 19th that day. Jack Hawksworth qualified 14th. Hawksworth did not start last year's Pocono race after suffering injuries in practice.

James Jakes and Gabby Chaves make up row eight. He finished 12th at Pocono in 2013. Chaves won last year's Indy Lights race at the track. Pippa Mann will start at career-best 17th. Her previous best was 19th, which occurred at Texas and Fontana in 2013. Ryan Briscoe will start on the outside of row eight. The Australian finished 14th at Pocono in 2013 and fourth last year. That fourth is Briscoe's last top five finish in IndyCar. His last top five before that fourth was second at Baltimore in 2012.

Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya will start 19th and rounding out the top twenty will be Sage Karam. Both drivers were in the top five of pre-qualifying practice. Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti will start on row eleven. Andretti was sixth in the pre-qualifying practice and he had a mechanical failure before he'd even completed a lap in the post-qualifying practice. On the final row will be two drivers who did not complete a qualifying attempt.

Charlie Kimball will start 23rd after having an accident in turn three on his first qualifying lap. Kimball's car did brush the catch fence but he walked away with only a minor cut on his chin. Kimball was fastest in pre-qualifying practice. Stefano Coletti will start 24th. He did not make a qualifying attempt after he brushed the wall exiting turn three at the end of pre-qualifying practice and then hit the pit lane wall. Coletti was able to turn some laps in the post-qualifying practice.

NBCSN's coverage of the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 2:46 p.m. ET.