Team Penske sweeps Motegi qualifying

Team Penske sweeps Motegi qualifying

Team Penske swept the top three starting positions for Sunday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. Helio Castroneves earned his second pole of the season, and his fifth at Motegi, after a two-lap qualifying run averaging 201.992 mph around...

Team Penske swept the top three starting positions for Sunday's Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi. Helio Castroneves earned his second pole of the season, and his fifth at Motegi, after a two-lap qualifying run averaging 201.992 mph around the 1.52-mile super speedway.

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

Castroneves was the first Team Penske driver in the qualifying order, knocking Dario Franchitti off the pole after the Scot set an early mark of 200.964 mph. Castroneves watched each run patiently as the final two cars in line were those of his teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, both contenders for the pole.

As Power took the checkered flag, qualifying third for his first Motegi race, a huge grin came across Castroneves' face and he first congratulated Roger Penske before running down pit lane to celebrate with his team.

With the starting order set, Team Penske will now set their sights on finishing ahead of Dario Franchitti, who trails Will Power in the championship by 17 points. Franchitti will start fourth.

When asked how they'll stay ahead of Franchitti, who is looking to score his second consecutive championship, Briscoe joked, "We'll run three wide the whole time."

Castroneves looked at both his teammates, responding, "I'm going to go to the inside."

Although it's mathematically possible for Power to clinch the championship tomorrow with a victory combined with some bad luck for Franchitti, it's likely the championship will go to the wire at Miami in two weeks.

"My aim was to come here and be ahead of the Ganassi guys, especially Dario," said Power. "Now we have to do it tomorrow too."

All three Penske drivers said the key to the race will be doing well in traffic.

"All the cars are equal and it's difficult to pass," said Castroneves. "The race will be very challenging."

"Lapped traffic will be a factor," Briscoe explained. "That will be important for passing up front. It will be important to be able to run well I traffic."

The key will be to "read the traffic well," said Power. "If we don't make any mistakes, we can all finish well."

Andretti Autosport drivers will start fifth though seventh, with Marco Andretti leading the team's efforts. Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter Reay will start sixth and seventh while teammate Danica Patrick will start 12th.

Japanese driver Takuma Sato rounds out the top 10. Sato crashed early in the first practice session and missed all but 10 minutes of the second session. An oil fitting came loose as Sato drove down the front stretch putting oil on his rear tires. He lost control of his car in Turn one and made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Takuma Sato , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Briscoe , Will Power , Roger Penske , Ryan Hunt , Danica Patrick
Teams Andretti Autosport , Team Penske