LONG POND, Pa. – In the return of IndyCar racing to Pocono Raceway for the first time since 1989, it seems only fitting that Andretti Autosport swept the front row for Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco.
Marco Andretti joined his grandfather Mario and father Michael as pole winners at the 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped race course when he sped to the top spot in Saturday’s qualifications. Andretti went out early in Saturday’s qualifications and set a track record with a two-lap average of 221.273 miles per hour shattering the previous track record of 211.715 mph over one lap by Emerson Fittipaldiin 1989.
By completing the Andretti Family Trilogy of pole winners at Pocono he also holds the Andretti speed record. Michael won the pole in 1986 at 205.724 mph and his Mario won the pole in 1987 at 200.915 mph.
“It means a lot to me,” Marco said about adding to the family heritage at Pocono. “This is the first place where, besides Milwaukee, I was able to get a pole where they did. But tomorrow is the one we want. That would be icing on the cake. My first goal is tomorrow. I really want to get this monkey off my back. I want to get the wins coming. We need to close the gap, first and foremost, on the points lead.”
Andretti admitted there is come extra pressure competing in a race close to home. Marco was born in nearby Nazareth, Pennsylvania and the Andretti family has a Lake House near the track.
“Definitely, because if you look at my worst finish (this season), I swept that weekend until that point, too,” Marco said. “We’re up to the task. We just need to execute.”
Andretti will lead the field to the green flag at 12:15 p.m. EST in a three-wide start. All three races in the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown feature three-wide starts including the Indianapolis 500 and the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on October 19.
Andretti will have familiar company starting alongside as teammate and defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was second fastest at 220.892 mph. James Hinchcliffe rounded out the all-Andretti front row at 220.431 mph.
“I always know my teammates are going to be strong,” Andretti said. “I got everything out of it. I knew I was going to be pleased with the result. In IndyCar racing these days, there are five guys who get it right. But I lucked out today. It all came together. It was going to be all about balance. We were really focusing on all details in practice.
“The track is tremendous. I’ve taken a huge liking to this place the second I rolled off here at the first test. I think this place was built for Indy cars, and vice-versa. I think it’s going to be a little bit like Indianapolis, right place at right time, timing your passes. You really have to be smart. You have to be more than just alongside. You can’t go two-wide in Turn 2.”
Hunter-Reay enters the race just nine points behind the leader, Helio Castroneves, and is intent on closing the gap on Sunday.
“It was a great one for Andretti Autosport,” Hunter-Reay said of qualifications. “It’s 400 miles. We got quailing out of the way. It’s going to be a long race. We have to go against Penske, Ganassi and, of course, a big challenge from teammates. After that we got going, we get to racing. It’s definitely good. This is Andretti’s backyard, with Marco on the pole. The three-wide start will look pretty cool.”