FONTANA, Calif. (Sept. 14, 2012) - The IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders will start the title-deciding race mid-pack and further back following qualifications for the Sept. 15 MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships at Auto Club Speedway.
Will Power takes a 17-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay entering the 250-lap race on the 2-mile oval. Power qualified third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car with a two-lap average speed of 215.940 mph. Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport, qualified 17that 212.773 mph.
Both will incur 10 grid spot penalties for fitting their sixth Chevrolet engines of the season (series rules specify five fresh engines per year of the engine manufacturer agreement).
"Not a great qualifying run for us but it's a 500-mile race so really not that bummed about it," said Hunter-Reay, who has two short-oval victories this season. "We just hadn't dialed our qualifying trim in with the DHL/Sun Drop car and that caught us out a bit. We missed the balance and (the car) took off on me a bit there at the exit. It was definitely hard to put a good two laps together.
"We've been focusing on the race though. That's the big thing."
There are a myriad of scenarios for either driver to claim their first series title. In a nutshell, Power wins the $1 million bonus if he finishes ahead of Hunter-Reay.
"It's a 500-mile race. We are focused on the things we can control," he said. "We are going to do what we can and see how it ends up. Just hang in there, just stay there and hopefully have a shot."
Marco Andretti earned his first pole start since Milwaukee in 2008 (76 races) with a two-lap average of 216.773 mph in the No. 26 Team RC Cola car for Andretti Autosport.
"It means a lot with what we have been going through this year," said Andretti, who has one top-five finish through the first 14 races. "It's just been a very trying year for me and my career. It's good for the confidence."
Also on Sept. 14, Sebastian Saavedra earned the pole for the Firestone Indy Lights Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100.
Saavedra, who also is competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series race, posted a two-lap average speed of 189.640 mph in the No. 27 Team AFS car. He was 0.2636 of a second quicker than Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Team Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport.
Esteban Guerrieri, who enters the 50-lap race 11 points behind Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Tristan Vautier in the championship standings, will start on Row 2. Vautier will start fifth in the title-deciding race.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES QUALIFYING NOTES:
Marco Andretti won his first IZOD IndyCar Series pole award of 2012 and the second pole of his career. His last pole came at Milwaukee in 2008 - a span of 76 starts.
Ryan Briscoe qualified second - his fifth front row qualifying effort of the season.
Points leader Will Power qualified third, his 12th top-five qualifying effort of the season and his best qualifying performance on an oval.
Josef Newgarden qualified fourth, his best qualifying performance in the IZOD IndyCar Series. His previous best qualifying was seventh, which he had done three times.
Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified 17th, his worst qualifying position in 2012. His previous worst position was 15th at Texas.
During qualifying, track temperatures ranged from 136-142 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt racing surface.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES QUALIFYING QUOTES:
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet, IZOD IndyCar Series pole award winner): "(Winning pole) means a lot. Just what we have been going through this year. Me in particular just been a very trying year for me and my career. It's good for the confidence, but we still got to get a race car under us tonight which I think we can do. But credit to the whole RC team, but the whole Andretti Autosport is just taking a huge step up this year. And let the best man win tomorrow."
(About his season) "Toughest part of my career. It is inspiring me to work harder outside the track and work harder in the car and still try to see what I need in the set up to get me quick, because I am not going to be quick on these tracks. And a little bit of leading luck will help."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was very unpredictable. I was the first of my team's cars, too. Wind changes, the whole track changes. I had totally different balance to what I had all weekend. Yeah, I mean, man, I got hard limiter both laps down the back straight on a bump. Yup, starting grid. Sometimes I'm glad when I start on pole. Every time, if I start on pole, it's bad. Start back in the pack, it's great. Hopefully that's true here (laughter). So, yeah, it is what it is. It's a 500-mile race. It would have been nice to get the point. Yeah, we'll see tomorrow. Just hang in there, just stay there and hopefully have a shot."
(About strategy for the race): "We are focused on the things we can control. Things are out of your control in the race. We are going to do what we can, and see how it ends up."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD TEAM PENSKE Chevrolet): "It was good. On my warm-up lap, I run the limiter up in turn three on that bump, so I went to the top gear which wasn't ideal. It was sort of dragging around the track, but I didn't hit the limiter. I went into qualifying saying there are two things I need to do. I need to be flat (full throttle), and I need to not be in the limiter. So I just went to the tall gear, and it was a bit sluggish. But the car was good. I was able to hold a pretty good line around the whole track. We just missed it. It is good. In a race like this, it doesn't matter where you start, but the prestige of pole is always something. It would have been nice."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We were pretty flat out, and maybe we could have trimmed out a little more. It was hard for us though because we couldn't come in too aggressive in qualifying after having an issue that caused us to miss practice. We weren't sure about the temperature and didn't want to risk too much. Coming into this race, we talked a lot about how I don't want a car that's going to sit on pole. I want a car that's going to be comfortable, reliable and consistent for the entire race. That's what we're working on. We want to have a good race car that can run a ton of laps. If we have that, then we can run up front and compete up front."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports): "The HP team made big improvements to the car from this morning to this afternoon. We went quicker and it's warmer. So, we made massive improvements. We are looking in the right direction. There is quite a bit of room for improvement, for sure, but I think we put our finger on what we needed. We'll do more work in practice tonight which will be the most important moment of the weekend, preparing the car for the race."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "After our warm-up lap of 214 (mph.), I thought we might have a shot to beat Marco's (Andretti) speed. But we built a little too much understeer in the car, and I had to lift in Turn 2. It is fun here though. I'm enjoying this track. I thought it would be bumpier than back in 2005 when we were here before. But it's smoother than Kentucky. The (chassis) package for this track is hard but I like it. It's a better package than what we ran at Texas. If we were going to race in conditions like this with the speed, it wouldn't be good. But the track will cool off for Saturday night's race. I think the fans will be happy with the racing for the 500. The track temperature was 140 degrees. That is hot. For the race, the track will cool down and produce a lot of grip for the cars. This track is tricky for everyone up and down the pit lane. Of all of the places we've run this year, I think there are more racing lanes here. You will see guys run on the white stripe and others up against the wall in the race. This will be my first 500-mile race other than Indy. I was thinking about going and talking to some of the guys who raced 500 miles here before. It's different than Indy. Indy is intense. But you have a 5/8-mile straight to take a breath. You don't get that luxury here. It will be a long night."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "We blew up the engine in practice this morning and we just weren't ready to go out for qualifying. It's a shame, because the team was here really late last night putting the engine in. But, that's racing. It is what it is."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We have to focus a little bit on everything this offseason. The team, myself and Honda all need to improve and get a bit more consistent. We'll have a busy winter here for everyone on the Target team trying to improve for next season. But any year you can win (the) Indy (500) and finish 1-2 is a good year. Today in qualifying the car just had a lot of oversteer in Turns 1 and 2 and I thought I was in the fence. The same thing happened this morning, and we thought we fixed it. It snapped way out of line and I managed to catch it but I had to lift and that was that."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It's a lot of fun running here at Auto Club Speedway both back in the Champ Car days and now back here in Indy cars. The formula that INDYCAR brought back here for this weekend is going to be fantastic and I think everyone here will get a little taste of it here tonight for practice under the lights. Tomorrow night the last half of the race will be awesome with cars running three or four different lines."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO | MOUSER ELECTRONICS - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I had a decent qualifying run. I am little concerned about the race. In my opinion the car is a little sketchy on the downforce that we have chosen for the race, but I respect IndyCar's decision on that and we will make the best out of it."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Team AFS Chevrolet): "The day started exactly like we wanted. We did a great job in both practice sessions. We qualified on the pole for Firestone Indy Lights, which was great. We want to end the season on a high note. We just need to continue working and improving the Indy car because tomorrow will be a long race. I don't see our INDYCAR qualifying being as important as Indy Lights is, since it will be so long. I believe jumping from one car to the other does mess with your head a little bit. I think I should have improved a little bit in the Indy car, but I am comfortable to bring the car home and focus on the race."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "The morning practice session was a little frustrating. We did very little running and we wanted to do a lot because we had many things we wanted to try that we carried over from the test in August but we just couldn't do it. Still I think we got everything together for qualifying and we are satisfied with the speed that we achieved which was the best we did in all of the laps, including the practice sessions and the test before. The conditions were not easy; very high temperatures and a little less grip overall. But I was reasonably happy with the balance so I could commit. There is still a lot of work to do in the final practice tonight."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet): "Qualifying did not go the way we expected. The speed we felt was a little bit better, especially what we had in practice. Conditions are very difficult for everybody; over 100 degrees. When you have to do an average speed (two laps of qualifying) is becoming very difficult. What happened is the first lap was a tremendous push in turn one. I adjusted myself in the second lap, and we were able to gain two mile-an-hour from one lap to another. It is what it is. We have a great car. The Auto Club of Southern California car is actually very fast during race conditions. We are looking forward to tomorrow."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC | EMBRASE - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I am happy with my result. We are obviously very lucky because so many drivers have got penalties so I have moved up some places. This morning, I had very little running as we were trying lots of things, so I ended up going blind into qualifying with a totally different car. But, I am happy. I think we have done okay and will now work on our race setup for tomorrow."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "On the run: "Not too bad-not great on the timesheets but it's not too uncomfortable. Obviously we're just trying to make small gains for tomorrow and work on race setup. That was the first time we'd given it full welly with new tires. The winds had shifted a bit from this morning so the ends changed a little bit, so I struggled with being loose in 3 and a push at the other end. It was a bit of a battle out there in qualifying and we missed the gearing as well so we lost a bit of momentum on that second lap and it killed us."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "I'm pretty happy with the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen car. It was pretty quick. Especially when the sun goes down, that's what will really matter. With a 500-mile race, you can go front-to-back a few times, so it's more about the racecar than it is qualifying here. The temperature is going to be so different. When the sun goes down, it can drop 10 to 15 degrees and that's going to be a factor in tomorrow's race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "It's a great recovery today by the Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing team. Martin (Pare), our engineer, did a great job. The car wasn't very comfortable earlier today. We made a lot of improvements and made it a lot better. We qualified 11th, and that's not exactly where we want to be but we're pretty happy. We're going to keep working on this racecar and we'll go racing tomorrow."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "It's a scorcher out here today and it's going to be a hot race, even at night. It's very difficult track conditions with the track being this hot and we haven't done a whole lot of qualifying-sim work with the Go Daddy Chevy. We've been working a lot on the race car which I think is going to be important. We need to make sure that Ryan (Hunter-Reay) has the best car - we all have the best cars that we can possibly have when we roll on the grid tomorrow. We have four cars to try and work on different setups and make sure that all of us, but especially the 28, are ready to go out there and do well and try to bring this title back home to Andretti Autosport."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "Not a great qualifying run for us but it's a 500-mile race, so I'm really not that bummed about it. We just hadn't dialed our qualifying trim in with the DHL/Sun Drop car and that caught us out a bit. We missed the balance and (the car) took off on me a bit there at the exit. It was definitely hard to put a good two laps together. We've been focusing on the race though - that's the big thing, we haven't done any qualifying runs today so it's something that we just haven't really put a lot of time into. Tonight we'll go out and work on race trim and get these four Andretti cars up front."
Selected quotes from Randy Bernard's informal media availability:
(About Engine Penalties) "I flew all over the world two years ago and talked to engine manufacturers and one of the first things they said was, 'We've seen what engines can cost you there, and we don't want any part of that.' So we had to come up with a type of rule that allowed it very fair to let everyone have equal opportunity and the way we did it was a way to keep costs down. So you can't build tons of engines. Does it work to our fans that are confused? No. But does it work to keep the cost of our engines down and keep our competition thriving not at the expense of the engine manufactures, yes it does that."
(Will we have enough engines next year?) "No doubt. That's very important to us."
(About Mike Conway) "I like Mike a lot, but I think everyone knows that racing is very dangerous. I haven't talked to him so I haven't heard him say what drove him to his decision."
(About 2013 schedule) "I want to have a complete schedule finished and out by October 1st. That's a hard deadline and we are getting real close. What we are making sure happens this year is that we have signed contracts before we put them on the schedule. We will put all of our schedule out on the same day."
(Will there be doubleheaders?) "I think it's definitely something we want to try, at a minimum two races. I think it will give you double exposure for viewership in those markets if we pick the right markets. We want to make sure that we can make very great races."
Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR Medical Director: Justin Wilson has been checked and released from the infield care center. He is cleared to drive.
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda):"I was going into Turn 1, and I was on new tires. I was starting my second lap. I'm not sure why it didn't stick. It's disappointing; it set our whole weekend back. We'll just have to work on trying to get the car ready for tomorrow now."
Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR Medical Director: Wade Cunningham has been checked and released from the infield care center. He is cleared to drive.
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing): I was exploring different lines on the track and I hadn't been that aggressive changing lanes. Just judged it on the seams of the track and got caught out.
(Was there're another car involved): "There was someone leaving pit lane, and I thought for a while I was going to get them, but luckily they got on the gas and got out of my way.
Source: IZOD IndyCar Series