Kanaan Tops Pocono Practice As Rain Stops Qualifying

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Tony Kanaan was fastest in NTT IndyCar Series practice Saturday at Pocono Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Tony Kanaan was fastest in NTT IndyCar Series practice Saturday at Pocono Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)

LONG POND, Pa. – After canceling qualifications because of rain on Saturday morning that kept the medical helicopter grounded, officials set the starting lineup for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 based on NTT IndyCar Series points.

That put Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden on the pole because he enters Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway with 16-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.

More important to the IndyCar drivers, however, was getting a chance to have a lengthy practice session at the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped speedway in preparation for the only other 500-mile race on the schedule outside of the Indianapolis 500. They got their wish with a two-hour practice session Saturday afternoon.

At 44, Tony Kanaan is the oldest driver in the NTT IndyCar Series. Despite his age, he still knows how to go fast and he reminded the IndyCar paddock of that fact by going fastest in practice with a speed of 216.354 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing.

“I was happy with my car in traffic,” Kanaan said. “We can all run close in traffic. I don’t think you will see anybody dominating this race. It’s a tough track. That’s all we can do. We will try to pull a TK start on it, gain five or six positions, put ourselves in the top 10. It’s a 500-mile race; a lot can happen.

“This has always been a good track for us. We always ran strong on the superspeedways. I’m happy. It’s a good day for us. Bummer for qualifying that we didn’t have a chance to do it. I’ll take it. It’s been a while since we have been that competitive.”

Josef Newgarden will start Sunday's NTT IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway from the pole. (Dennis Bicksler Photo)
Josef Newgarden will start Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway from the pole. (Dennis Bicksler Photo)

Because the starting lineup is based on points, Kanaan deep in the field in 19th place.

“It’s quite a ways in the back, but we will fix that Sunday,” Kanaan said. “We’re having a very difficult year. Anything we can do to motive ourselves; we are doing right now.

“This will help pump the guys up.”

Team owner A.J. Foyt was not at the track Saturday, choosing to stay at his ranch in south Texas.

“He knows already,” Kanaan said. “I have to call him to come up here for the race.”

Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Pocono race winner Scott Dixon was second fastest at 215.761 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Rookie driver Santino Ferrucci was third at 215.377 mph in the No. 19 Honda for Cale Coyne Racing.

“It’s weird because it’s a long track, but you don’t get to stretch your legs because you are adjusting after every turn,” Ferrucci said. “All three turns here are vastly different so you are consistently playing with the weight jacker and the front and rear bar. It’s non-stop and a nice rhythm to get into it.

“It’s nice to feel the speed. It feels fantastic and I enjoy every minute of it.”

Rossi was fourth fastest at 215.373 mph. He starts second because he is second in points. Simon Pagenaud, the winner of the 103rd Indianapolis 500, rounded out the top five at 215.368 mph in the No. 22 Chevrolet.

Sunday’s race is set for 2:45 p.m. and can be seen live on NBCSN.