Pagenaud Earns Pole For 103rd Indianapolis 500

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Simon Pagenaud claimed the pole for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Simon Pagenaud claimed the pole for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. (Al Steinberg Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud got a warm greeting from team owner Roger Penske after Pagenaud won his first Indianapolis 500 Pole on Sunday, just one week after scoring his first win in 23 races in the IndyCar Grand Prix.

“Looks like Simon showed up,” Penske chuckled after Pagenaud claimed the pole with a four-lap average of 229.992 mph in the Team Menard’s Chevrolet.

While that team was simply happy to make the starting lineup, Pagenaud gave Penske one more reason to celebrate at the Indianapolis 500.

“When you look at Simon’s run today, it was amazing to see the consistency over 230, which looked like Mears was qualifying there back in the old days,” Penske said. “I just want to congratulate him in front of all of you. We had four good cars. He was strong all month, and I think when we had to execute, there was certainly one guy that was going to get on the pole, and that was Simon.

“All month they’ve been on the ball, and of course the momentum coming off the road course win, you’ve got to think about that, too.

“A combined couple of weeks here has been terrific. Now we have to go on and get the big one.”

Pagenaud becomes the first driver from France to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500 since Rene Thomas in 1919.

“It’s my whole team behind me that prepared me to here,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a team effort, but obviously super happy for France. I think this sport is a sport that I know France would really enjoy, and they do. So, this can only help gain the recognition over there and in Europe.

The gap between Pagenaud’s pole speed and Kyle Kaiser’s slowest speed in the field is just 1.8040 seconds. It’s the closest field in Indianapolis 500 history.

“IndyCar has done a great job with the universal aero kit,” Pagenaud said. “I think all the cars are so close these days, and it’s very difficult to make a difference. Personally, on our sideat Team Penske, theNo. 1 priority is Indianapolis. So, we focus on that.

“The goal is to win the race, and that’s where we put all the effort, as much effort as we can, and then the rest of the year is also a big focus. But you can see that all the teams are raising the game, all the drivers are raising their game, as well. It’s honestly tremendous to be in this era of the sport because you get better and better every weekend, and it never stops.”

Pagenaud knocked hometown favorite Ed Carpenter off the pole. Carpenter’s fast time in a Chevrolet was a four-lap average of 229.889 mph. Carpenter is a three-time Indy 500 pole winner.

Spencer Pigot, Saturday’s fastest qualifier, rounds out row one with a four-lap average of 229.826 mph, putting two ECR cars on the front row.

The team’s third driver is Ed Jones and he qualified fourth at 229.646 mph for four laps. Rookie Colton Herta and Will Power round out row two

Row three consists of Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi.

“I’ve got a lot more things to accomplish here,” Pagenaud said. “My goal is to win Indianapolis. I’m here to win Indy, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

While Pagenaud and Team Penske celebrated the team’s 18th Indianapolis 500 Pole, Fernando Alonso and McLaren failed to make the 33-car starting lineup on a dramatic day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alonso and McLaren could never find the speed this year and his four-lap average of 227.353 mph in the Last Row Shootout did not withstand the assault from five other drivers. When Sage Karam ran the fastest lap of the session with four laps at 227.740 mph, Alonso was on the bubble.

Kaiser pricked the bubble as the final driver to make a speed run and put the Juncos Racing Chevrolet into the field with a four-lap average of 227.372 mph.