HOUSTON – Simon Pagenaud hopes to regain his performance level on the street and road courses as the driver from France won the pole Saturday morning for Saturday’s Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers.
The driver from Sam Schmidt Motorsports ran a fast lap of 59.3716 seconds for a speed of 99.078 mph in a Honda around the 10-turn, 1.683-mile temporary street circuit at NRG Park.
It’s Pagenaud’s first pole of the season and the first pole of his IndyCar career.
“This is really awesome for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports and myself really,” Pagenaud said. “We’ve been knocking on the door in qualifying and wining the pole is really awesome. We have a really good race car and starting form the pole is a big boost of confidence to the team and to myself. Qualifying well is super important at Houston because passing opportunities are not as big as they are on an oval or even at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis – especially with a standing start, because in that position there is much less chance of not having problems.”
Helio Castroneves, who enters Saturday’s 90-lap race 39 points behind Team Penske teammate Will Power, was second at 59.446 seconds (98.953 mph) in a Chevrolet.
Three-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon starts third at 59.503 (98.858 mph) in a Chevrolet followed by rookie driver Luca Filippi of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who ran a fast lap of 59.552 (98.777 mph) in a Honda. James Hinchcliffe rounds out the top five with a fast lap of 59.652 (98.611 mph) in a Honda.
Drivers that missed the Fast Six include Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who starts eighth in a Honda and Power, who starts way back in 18th after failing to advance out of the first round with a lap at 1:00.36 (97.444 mph) in a Chevrolet.
“Definitely not start where we would like to be but we just have to go out there and see what happens and hope the Chevy can make its way to the front,” Power said.
Tony Kanaan, who continues to struggle at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, starts 22nd in the 23-car field.
Saturday’s first race begins at 3:30 p.m. E.T.