Aleshin's first career pole leads international run up front in Pocono qualifying

Updated: 

LONG POND, Pa. – While an international theme has captivated sports fans this month with the Summer Olympic Games, Verizon IndyCar Series drivers added their own worldwide flavor today in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, led by a first-time pole winner.

Mikhail Aleshin, driving the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda, became the first Russian driver to win a pole position in Indy car history, taking top honors in Verizon P1 Award qualifying today with a two-lap average speed of 220.445 mph on the 2.5-mile triangular oval.

CLICK HERE: ABC Supply 500 qualifying results

Affectionately known as the “Mad Russian” for his daring driving style, Aleshin led a top six in qualifying that features drivers from six different nations. American Josef Newgarden from Ed Carpenter Racing (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, 220.195 mph) will join Aleshin on the front row. Japan’s Takuma Sato of AJ Foyt Racing (No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, 220.067) will start on the inside of Row 2 in his best qualifying performance since sitting on pole at the second race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit in 2014.

“It’s my first pole in INDYCAR and I am so happy to bring the No. 7 SMP Racing up there,” said Aleshin. “The team did an amazing job. We had a couple of moments in Turn 1, but I decided to keep it flat and see what would happen. (Hitting) the wall didn’t happen, but pole position happened. Amazing.

“It’s obviously very difficult to explain what I feel now,” the 29-year-old Moscow native said. “But it’s a lot of emotions definitely. I’m very happy for the team first of all because we’ve been through many things.”

While Sunday’s race is bound to be unpredictable, Aleshin claims today’s result as an affirmation that his No. 7 team belongs among the contenders.

“I think the main help starting from P1 is basically confidence for everyone,” he said, “a confidence for the team. Because we know that we’re fast, we know we can build a car to be in P1 here.” 

Newgarden, who will start on the front row for the third time in 2016, was upbeat with his performance but frustrated he couldn’t cover the deficit to Aleshin, which turned out to be less than one-tenth of a second over the 5-mile run.

“It’s tough being second,” admitted Newgarden, winner at Iowa Speedway last month and third-place finisher in May’s Indianapolis 500. “I think we might have had enough if we stuck with our original (qualifying setup). I was pushing the team really hard to change that at the last minute. Maybe if we didn’t do that, we would have had enough today. I feel like it’s kind of my fault.”

The Tennessean should still be considered a favorite for Sunday’s race. He has finishes of fifth, eighth and second in three races at the “Tricky Triangle.”

“Still good with second,” Newgarden said. “You can't be mad about that. We got a good spot. But you like those small victories. Pole is a small victory. Love to be able to do that for your crew. It's tough when you're that close and you miss it by so little.”

Brazilian Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 219.781) and Colombia’s Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, 219.647 mph) rounded out the top five, followed by Aleshin’s teammate, Canadian James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 219.463).

While Aleshin celebrated his first pole, several usual contenders will not have as good of a view of the field when the green flag waves for Sunday’s 200-lap event, slated to be the 13th completed race of the 2016 season. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 217.721) will start 14th and defending series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, 215.337) 19th. Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda) will start from the back of the 22-car field after crashing in practice this morning and not making a qualification attempt.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet) and Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Chevy) also crashed in morning practice, but their crews were able to repair their cars in time for qualifying. Montoya (217.284 mph) will start 15th and Kimball (216.917) 16th.

A delayed qualifying broadcast airs late tonight (midnight ET Sunday) on NBCSN.

The Verizon IndyCar Series has a final practice session from 5-5:30 p.m. ET today that will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Coverage of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 can be found on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INYDCAR Radio Network beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Rank

Car

Driver Name

C/A/E/T

Lap 1

Lap 2

Total Time

Avg Speed

Comment

1

7

Aleshin, Mikhail

D/H/H/F

40.7901

40.8629

01:21.6530

220.445

2

21

Newgarden, Josef

D/C/C/F

40.8518

40.8938

01:21.7456

220.195

3

14

Sato, Takuma

D/H/H/F

40.9058

40.8873

01:21.7931

220.067

4

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/C/F

40.9709

40.9288

01:21.8997

219.781

5

26

Munoz, Carlos

D/H/H/F

40.9870

40.9628

01:21.9498

219.647

6

5

Hinchcliffe, James

D/H/H/F

41.0076

41.0109

01:22.0185

219.463

7

98

Rossi, Alexander (R)

D/H/H/F

41.0480

41.0216

01:22.0696

219.326

8

12

Power, Will

D/C/C/F

41.0872

41.2487

01:22.3359

218.617

9

10

Kanaan, Tony

D/C/C/F

41.1550

41.1849

01:22.3399

218.606

10

20

Carpenter, Ed

D/C/C/F

41.3041

41.1045

01:22.4086

218.424

11

15

Rahal, Graham

D/H/H/F

41.2689

41.2228

01:22.4917

218.204

12

41

Hawksworth, Jack

D/H/H/F

41.2919

41.2576

01:22.5495

218.051

13

27

Andretti, Marco

D/H/H/F

41.2426

41.3217

01:22.5643

218.012

14

22

Pagenaud, Simon

D/C/C/F

41.2078

41.4667

01:22.6745

217.721

15

2

Montoya, Juan Pablo

D/C/C/F

41.2793

41.5614

01:22.8407

217.284

16

83

Kimball, Charlie

D/C/C/F

41.4946

41.4865

01:22.9811

216.917

17

8

Chilton, Max (R)

D/C/C/F

41.5076

41.5606

01:23.0682

216.689

18

11

Bourdais, Sebastien

D/C/C/F

41.6428

41.5892

01:23.2320

216.263

19

9

Dixon, Scott

D/C/C/F

41.8258

41.7642

01:23.5900

215.337

20

88

Daly, Conor (R)

D/H/H/F

41.9102

41.9056

01:23.8158

214.757

21

19

Mann, Pippa

D/H/H/F

42.5995

42.6006

01:25.2001

211.267

22

28

Hunter-Reay, Ryan

(R) Rookie

D/H/H/F

No Time

DNQ

(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (A)erokit: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone

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