LONG POND — The final minutes of Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying at Pocono Raceway made the difference for Andretti Autosport.
2015 Pocono IndyCar winner Ryan Hunter-Reay endured a massive crash in Turn 3 before teammate and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato went out for his qualifying run.
Sato then powered his No. 26 Honda to the pole for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 with a two-lap average speed of 219.639 mph.
“That’s why putting down on pole here is something very special, especially after Indy 500, coming to another 500-mile race, while the entire crew from the 26 did an outstanding job,” Sato said. “I have to say a big thank you to Michael and all Andretti Autosport. I am very happy.”
Amidst Sato’s fast run, Hunter-Reay was taken from the infield care center and transported on ground to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest hospital in Allentown for further observation.
“We saw Ryan’s moment,” Sato said about this teammate. “It really made me nervous because he was just in front of me. We share a lot of parts and philosophy on the car so it’s directly expecting what he has is what I have.”
Defending series champ Simon Pagenaud held the provisional pole for a majority of the session until Sato went out and knocked the French-born driver off the top spot. Pagenaud was second fastest behind Hunter-Reay in Saturday morning’s practice and ended up in the same place once qualifying ended.
“I’m quite satisfied,” Pagenaud said. “A front row start is really good, our best start here in Pocono. It’s a 500-mile race so a lot can happen. Today was pretty much ego day trying to get that pole position. For us, it would have been nice to get another point, but overall I think we did our best and we’ll go to bed pretty satisfied with today.”
Pagenaud was best among Team Penske in qualifying as defending Pocono winner Will Power slotted in fifth in his No. 12 Chevrolet. Power paced the final practice session which took place three hours after qualifying concluded.
“Qualifying was pretty good for the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team,” Power said. “We definitely were fast but a few cars definitely had a little more than us. We are going to work on the car a bit before the next practice and will spend the session trying to find more speed. “
Between the two Penske drivers in the starting lineup were the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan. Kimball scored the pole earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway while Kanaan hasn’t won a race in nearly three years.
“I’m pleased with our run — I think we were pretty competitive,” Kanaan said about his run. “That’s the fastest we’ve gone all weekend, so I’m happy. I think the NTT car was really balanced and didn’t have anything more for the setup we had. It’s one of those things we did everything we could and left it all out there. I like qualifying sessions like that regardless of the outcome. It was a good one.”
Row five also consists of CGR drivers in recently-married Max Chilton and second-place points man Scott Dixon, who won in IndyCar’s return to Pocono in 2013.
The qualifying session also stopped for Helio Castroneves losing control of his Team Penske car in Turn 1 and later was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
The green flag for the ABC Supply 500 drops shortly after 2:30 p.m. ET and can be seen live on NBC Sports Network.