Simon Pagenaud Strengthens Championship Bid with Sonoma Pole Position
SONOMA, Calif. (Sept. 17, 2016) - Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud has led the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings since early April. On the cusp of his first series title, the Frenchman delivered a championship performance in Saturday's Verizon P1 Award qualifying, earning the top spot in knockout qualifying for Sunday's season-ending GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway.
Pagenaud (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet) won the pole position and important championship point with a lap of 1 minute, 16.2565 seconds (112.594 mph), leading a Team Penske sweep of the top four spots. Pagenaud was followed by Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, 1:16.4134), Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet, 1:16.5400) and championship contender Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, 1:16.5400). The last time the Penske quartet swept the first four spots in qualifying was in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., in March.
"The biggest thing is how good the car has been, through the whole qualifying session," said an exuberant Pagenaud after winning the pole at Sonoma for the first time. "So proud of the HP Chevrolet team. What a dream season, seven poles! It's unbelievable … I knew we could do it. This has not been my favorite type of track in the past, but it doesn't seem to be the case anymore."
Pagenaud's effort earned his seventh pole of 2016, the 245th in the history of Team Penske and put him 44 points clear of teammate Power heading into Sunday's 85-lap championship finale. The race pays double points, meaning Pagenaud can clinch the championship by finishing fifth or better.
Pagenaud also set the Sonoma Raceway track record in Segment 1, with a fast lap of 1:16.2530, eclipsing the mark set by Power (1:16.2597) in qualifying last year at the 2.385-mile permanent road course.
With just 85 laps separating him from his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Pagenaud will lead the 22-car field to the green flag for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. A 30-minute warmup practice begins at 11:30 a.m. PT Sunday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Race coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. PT Sunday on NBCSN.
Tickets are still available for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, and kids 12 and under are admitted free all weekend. In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series, Sunday's action will also include the Pirelli World Challenge Series. For more information, visit www.SonomaRaceway.com or call 800-870-RACE (7223).