Castroneves Strikes First, Wins IndyCar Pole

Helio Castroneves' title fight took a promising step on Friday. (Al Steinberg photo)
Helio Castroneves' title fight took a promising step on Friday. (Al Steinberg photo)
Helio Castroneves’ title fight took a promising step on Friday. (Al Steinberg photo)

FONTANA, Calif. – Shortly before Helio Castroneves attempted his pole winning qualification attempt on Friday for Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, a power outage hit the facility. That came after another “Power Outage” as Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Will Power had a terrible qualification attempt and will start 21st in the 22-car field.

Castroneves was the last driver to make a qualification attempt and drove a two-lap average of 218.540 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet around the 2.0-mile oval to claim the pole and get the one bonus point toward the championship. He entered the weekend trailing Power by 51 points going into the double-points 500-mile race.

On the opposite end of the grid is Power, whose two-lap average of 212.604 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet has him nearly 6 miles an hour off Castroneves’ pace. The only driver to go slower in qualifications was Carlos Huertas’s Dale Coyne Racing Honda at 202.319 mph.

“It’s ain’t over,” Castroneves said. “It’s only beginning.”

Castroneves’ 41st career pole broke a tie with the legendary Rick Mears for fourth on the all-time IndyCar list. And it may be one of the most important poles of his career as he hopes to erase Power’s lead and claim his first career series title.

Although the one bonus point for winning the pole won’t be awarded until after Saturday night’s race if that extra point is factored in he now trails Power for 50 points with a maximum 100 points available to the winner on Saturday night.

Power realizes in a 500-mile race on a wide 2.0-mile oval that an IndyCar driver can win from anywhere on the track but his poor starting position will likely get the high-strung driver from Australia a bit concerned.

“That’s as bad as it gets right there as far as qualifying goes,” Power said. “I was just too loose.

“Starting back there, dust and dirt will be an issue now. But it is what it is. We’ll see if we can get the race car real good tonight in the final practice session.”

Quite a contrast at Team Penske as Power had a look of concern and Castroneves was all smiles afterwards.

“I didn’t do it just by myself – it was all of Team Penske because Will and Juan Pablo Montoya both went out before me and with their data we were able to make the minor adjustments to get the pole positions,” Castroneves said. “It’s still 500 miles. It’s still a long way and we have to continue doing what we are doing.”

When told that Power said he would rather start up front or start last on the grid, Castroneves’ quipped, “I guess his wish came true.”