Long Pond, PA – Marco Andretti upheld the family legend by grabbing the pole position for the Pocono Indy 400 at the Pocono Raceway. In history, his grandfather, Mario Andretti, and father, Michael Andretti, have earned poles at the massive 2.5-mile oval situated it the colorful Pocono Mountains.
Driving the RC Cola Chevrolet, one of four entries from Andretti Autosport, the third-generation driver averaged 221.373 miles per hour. The youngest Andretti earned the fourth pole of his IZOD IndyCar Series career and the second of the season.
“I got everything out of it, so I knew I was going to be pleased with the result if I got it right,” Andretti said. “In IndyCar racing, there are five guys that can get it right and we lucked out today. It all came together, and it was all about balance. We looked at every little element in practice, and we got a decent handle on the race car. We focused on details and that made the difference.”
Discussing the Pocono Raceway, he added, “I really think the IndyCars are built for this track and vice versa. This became my favorite track even though I love Indianapolis. The way this place races is so challenging, and it is so different from end to end and from lap to lap.”
He had the fastest times in each practice session, to showcase the strength of his car.
In addressing the family’s sterling reputation, Andretti noted, “This is the first place where I was able to get a pole that they (his grandfather and father) got other than Milwaukee. My family has always run well here, similar to Indianapolis. Tomorrow is the one we want, and it would be icing on the cake.”
The Pocono Indy 400 marks the return of open-wheel racing to the oval for the first time since 1989. Between 1971 and the finale event, USAC and CART staged 19 500-mile races. Mark Donohue won the inaugural race and Danny Sullivan the final round. In between, A. J. Foyt grabbed four of the victories and Rick Mears took three to go along with four pole triumphs.
Local favorite Mario Andretti won the 1986 edition while his son, Michael, started from the pole.
Joining the youthful Andretti in the front row will be teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe.
Hunter-Reay turned a lap speed of 220.892 mph and Hinchcliffe hit 220.431 mph.
Said Hunter-Reay, “Anybody can win this thing, as there are a number of fast cars here. We came here to win and we expect to be in a position to do so.”
Regarding the race and track, he added, “There’s only one racing line going into turn one and any way you slice it, you have to have three cars go down to one, which will be tough. This track is tremendous fun to drive, although they need to work on the curbing in turn two. Other than that, the track is awesome and I hope we are here to stay. What makes the track fun is that you have to think more on this level than any track I’ve been to, as every corner is different. In the car, you have to set different tool positions in each corner, and you are shifting a lot. You have to be on top of your game to put a good lap together.”
Hinchcliffe commented, “You really have to hang it out here. On my first lap, the thing stepped out, so I had to lift. With all three of us running that close, it is awesome. It speaks volumes about what the team is doing. There must be something in the genes of the Andretti family, as Marco has been the class of the field since we got here. It is cool to see and to have an Andretti up front. We are all going to be pushing on Sunday, but it wouldn’t suck if Marco won it.”
Qualifying for the second row were Will Power, Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and three-time Indy champ Helio Castroneves.
The Honda-powered entrants of Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud qualified for row three.
Crashes by E. J. Viso and Alex Tagliani will force them into back-up cars.
All 23 qualifiers broke Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1989 qualifying record of 211.715 mph.
Ryan Briscoe missed qualifications as he was racing with the American LeMans Series today at Lime Rock Park. He practiced in the National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet at Pocono on Thursday and will return for Sunday’s race, starting in the last row
ABC will televise the Pocono Indy 400 on Sunday at Noon ET.