(Updated with post-qualifying technical inspection penalties.)
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s pretty clear Simon Pagenaud has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
The French native has been on a roll of late, winning the last two Verizon IndyCar Series races (streets of Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park). He hasn’t finished lower than second in the first four races this season and has a solid 48-point lead in the championship.
So what does the Team Penske driver do for an encore? He took the first step toward that today by being the fastest of the Firestone Fast Six to capture the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Pagenaud covered Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course in 1 minute, 8.6868 seconds, at a speed 127.832 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.
CLICK HERE: Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis updated qualifying results
It was Pagenaud’s fourth career pole and second straight this year, having led the field to the green flag at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama two weeks ago.
Pagenaud is now focused on not only winning his third race in a row, but also seeking his second ALGPI checkered flag, having captured the inaugural road course event in 2014. Plus, if Pagenaud wins Saturday, it would be an early birthday present since he turns 32 on May 18.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in racing,” Pagenaud said of the 2016 season. “I’m driving the best I’ve driven, ever. Little by little, you get confidence with success.
“Team Penske, they give me the best car. If I drive it well, you should expect to be up there. To be up there so often is certainly the best feeling in the world.”
Pagenaud insisted he’s doing nothing different than in 2015. But last season, his first year with Team Penske, was a struggle at times. He failed to win a race, had just two podium finishes and one pole.
“I haven’t changed since last year,” Pagenaud said. “Everybody asks, ‘What are you doing different?’ I’m not doing that much different. I worked hard in the winter, for sure. I know my team a lot better, also I’m more used to my environment.
“I know the people I have to talk to when I have a problem, the communication within the team is a lot stronger, (with) my teammates there’s a trust and confidence that works really with them, so it’s the whole situation.”
Starting on the outside of the front row for Saturday’s 82-lap race will be Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball, who earned a career-best second place start in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet (1:08.9816, 127.286 mph).
“A lot of credit to Simon for being on the pole because I think it would have taken a perfect lap from us to be close, and we didn’t quite get it done and he did it," Kimball said. "I’ll at least have clear air for a little while and we’ll see what I can do with it.”
Two cars that had reached the Firestone Fast Six were penalized in post-qualifying technical inspection for failing to meet the minimum car weight. The No. 15 of Graham Rahal, which had qualified third, and the No. 21 of Josef Newgarden, which qualified fifth, had their times voided according to Rule 22.214.171.124 of the Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book and will start from the rear of the field.
With the changes, Row 2 consists of James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (a season-best start with a time of 1:09.2260, 126.837 mph) and Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (also a season-best start with a time of 1:09.5141, 126.311 mph).
Tony Kanaan, in the No. 10 NTT Group Chevrolet, and Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy, will be in Row 3.
Coverage of the third annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets are available at ims.com/tickets.
Power’s sets track record in Segment 1
Will Power, Pagenaud’s teammate at Team Penske, set the track record in Segment 1 of qualifying with a lap of 1:08.6746 (127.855 mph). It broke Power’s own record set last year by more than eight-tenths of a second, but the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske failed to advance from Segment 2 to the Firestone Fast Six and will start the race in the 10th spot.
“It was just a mistake,” said Power, who won the 2015 race from the pole. “I touched the wall turning into Turn 12. I was on time, good enough to (advance). I just locked up, went in the grass, got out of the way and was all over the marbles.”