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Pagenaud Breaks ’17 Pole Drought In Toronto

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 15 2017

Simon Pagenaud collected his first pole of the season as he laid down the fastest lap during qualifying for Sunday’s IndyCar Series race in Toronto.

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Simon Pagenaud won his first IndyCar Series pole of the season Saturday when he laid down the fastest lap for the Honda Indy Toronto race in Canada.

The Team Penske driver will lead the 21-car field to the green flag in Sunday’s 85-lap race on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street circuit.

In the Firestone Fast Six – the third and final round of the knockout qualifying format employed on road and street courses – Pagenaud recorded a lap of 58.9124 seconds (109.138 mph) to earn the 10th pole of his eight-year Indy car career.

The lap was more than eight-tenths of a second quicker than the previous record (59.7747 seconds) set last year by Will Power.

“It’s been a great weekend so far,” said Pagenaud, who earned Team Penske’s eighth pole this season and its 253rd in Indy car history. “The car is really, really nice to drive. The most satisfying thing is to feel like as an athlete that you can extract the best out of yourself and be one with the car. That’s what I’ve always dreamt about and today I feel that way.”

Pagenaud said he enjoys the challenges of Toronto’s downtown street circuit, with its tight corners and surface changes.

“Usually when I start in the front, I feel like things can go well, but you never know here,” said Pagenaud, third in the 2017 championship after 11 of 17 races and now within 30 points of leader Scott Dixon after collecting one point for winning the pole. “It’s such an exciting race, always a twist here in the strategy, so anything can happen. But cross fingers that it goes our way.”

Graham Rahal had his best Toronto qualifying effort in 12 tries and will start second in his Rahal Letterman Racing Honda with a lap of 59.2245 seconds (108.563 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six.

“Honestly, I think on used (alternate) tires, it’s probably the best lap I’ve ever put together to put us P2,” Rahal said. “The Penskes looked like they were going to run away with this thing. I’m so geeked for this team. These boys have worked so hard and, man, I couldn’t be more proud of them. That was awesome.”

A pair of Pagenaud’s teammates at Team Penske, Helio Castroneves and Will Power, locked up the second row in qualifying. Castroneves was third fastest in the No. 3 Chevrolet (59.4345 seconds, 108.180 mph) with defending race winner Power fourth in the No. 12 Chevrolet (59.5430 seconds, 107.982 mph).

Scott Dixon was fifth in the No. 9 Honda (59.7970 seconds, 107.524 mph). The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has advanced to the Firestone Fast Six at every road- and street-course race where it has been contested this season.

The final spot in the Firestone Fast Six went to hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe, who equaled his best Toronto qualifying effort of sixth with a lap of 1 minute, 0.14145 seconds in the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

“It’s always tricky qualifying here,” said Hinchcliffe, who finished third in last year’s Toronto race. “This track is one of the those with all the surface changes and, where the walls are, it’s tough to get that lap on the (Firestone alternate) reds. … I’m really proud of the SPM Arrow guys. Top six (in qualifying) two years in a row, and last year we turned it into a podium, so let’s hope for more of the same tomorrow.”

Two incidents in earlier qualifying rounds affected drivers Esteban Gutierrez and JR Hildebrand.

Gutierrez, the rookie driving the No. 18 Honda, made hard contact with the wall at the exit of Turn 11 at the conclusion of Segment 1, Group 1 qualifying. The Dale Coyne Racing entry sustained significant right-side and rear damage in the incident.

Gutierrez was evaluated by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. The 25-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, was treated and released. He was re-evaluated on Sunday and cleared to drive.

Hildebrand hit the wall in Segment 2 qualifying when his No. 21 Chevrolet jumped the curb on the inside of Turn 8 and slid into the outside barrier. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver was uninjured and will start 12th in Sunday’s race, the 33rd for Indy cars in Toronto dating to the first event in 1986.

A final 30-minute warmup practice is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live coverage of the 85-lap race commences at 3 p.m. on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore presentation airing at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

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TORONTO – Results of qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy Toronto Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.786-mile Streets of Toronto, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 58.9124 (109.138)
2. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 59.2245 (108.563)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 59.4345 (108.180)
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 59.5430 (107.982)
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 59.7970 (107.524)
6. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:00.1415 (106.908)
7. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 59.8992 (107.340)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:00.0114 (107.140)
9. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 1:00.1202 (106.946)
10. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:00.1970 (106.809)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:00.3384 (106.559)
12. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 1:02.3040 (103.197)
13. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 59.7585 (107.593)
14. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 1:00.0607 (107.052)
15. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 59.8686 (107.395)
16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:00.0926 (106.995)
17. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 59.9820 (107.192)
18. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:00.2713 (106.678)
19. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 1:00.1650 (106.866)
20. (7) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 1:00.6272 (106.051)
21. (18) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 1:00.7441 (105.847)

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 15 2017
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