Fontana IndyCar: Pagenaud leads Castroneves in all-Penske front row

Simon Pagenaud will lead an all-Penske front row for Saturday's IndyCar race at Fontana after beating Helio Castroneves to pole position on Friday afternoon

Fontana IndyCar: Pagenaud leads Castroneves in all-Penske front row

The Frenchman was the third driver to take his turn at a qualifying run and rounded the Californian two-mile superspeedway with a two-lap average of 218.952mph.

"The car feels great. It has felt good all day; we've been running well in traffic," said Pagenaud.

"We didn't really have a chance to try a qualifying run [during practice] but I'm glad it all paid off.

"Starting up front is important, especially if you want to keep out of trouble with traffic, and it helps you to really understand your car so you can set it up for the end. But it's going to be a long race tomorrow."

While drawing an earlier qualifying slot is sometimes considered a disadvantage, Pagenaud's speed rarely appeared threatened.

Only Castroneves was able to join him in posting two laps in the 218mph range; the Brazilian delivering nearly identical speeds of 218.736 and 218.731 to settle on a combined average of 218.734mph.

There were a couple of surprise interlopers among the Penske and Ganassi drivers on the first four rows, starting with Marco Andretti, who put his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport entry into third.

"It means a lot to be up there," he said. "Those first two [Pagenaud and Castroneves] did really good laps, but I think we maximised everything so I'm proud of my guys.

"I'm really happy with the race car, and that's the main thing."

Joining him on the second row will be CFH driver Ed Carpenter, who rediscovered his usual oval form after bad weekends at Indianapolis and Texas.

"The car feels a lot better," he said. "The week off was really good for us as a team."

Juan Pablo Montoya was the first to complete his qualifying run and finished up fifth-fastest for Penske, with Ganassi's Scott Dixon set to join him on the outside of the third row.

Conditions were significantly cooler during the latter part of qualifying than earlier in the day, and several drivers who qualified deeper in the field suspected that the sudden change might have caught them out.

One of them was Ryan Briscoe, who was fastest in opening practice, but ended up qualifying 16th.

"It was too easy," he said. "We just had too much downforce on it. I was holding it flat with absolutely no problem."

His Schmidt team-mate James Jakes was forced to miss his qualifying run while his crew worked to repair his car following its engine failure during practice earlier in the day.

STARTING GRID:

Pos Driver Team Car
1 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
2 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
3 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda
4 Ed Carpenter CFH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
5 Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
6 Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
7 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
8 Will Power Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
9 Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Honda
10 Sage Karam Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
11 Carlos Munoz Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda
12 Josef Newgarden CFH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
13 Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
14 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda
15 Sebastien Bourdais KVSH Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
16 Ryan Briscoe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda
17 Jack Hawksworth AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Honda
18 Gabby Chaves Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara/Honda
19 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara/Honda
20 Tristan Vautier Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda
21 Stefano Coletti KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevrolet
22 Pippa Mann Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda
23 James Jakes Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda

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