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VICS: Helio Castroneves Leads Penske 1-2-3 in Pocono

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Team Penske played with threes at the track that happens to have three corners.

Helio Castroneves led a 1-2-3 sweep for Team Penske at Pocono Raceway in the No. 3 Chevrolet for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 – the penultimate race in the series’ 2015 campaign.

With a average two-lap speed of 220.530 mph, Castroneves edged Simon Pagenuad to win his 45th career Verizon IndyCar Series pole.

“Everybody did an excellent job fixing the track,” Castroneves said of the cleanup by Pocono track workers after Charlie Kimball’s scary crash. “Our car was just unbelievable. Just flawless. I basically didn’t lift and just kept going.”

The eyes were in the sky on pit road as cloud cover was hit and miss. Traveling at speeds more than 220 mph, even cloud cover can make the drivers nervous.

“When you start building anxiety and you don’t know what’s going to happen, You’re like, ‘Oh boy, let’s just get going.’” Castroneves said.

First-year Penske driver, Pagenuad, scores his fifth front-row start of 2015 but was understandably left disappointed after sitting in P1 for a majority of the extended session.

“The car was great,” Pagenuad stated. “It was an interesting run. We had a bit of a scrub in Turn 1, a bit of a lift. Obviously, missed the balance there a little bit. The the car was fast overall, we just had too much degradation on the second lap to hold on to [the pole].”

With Will Power starting third, where is Juan Pablo Montoya?

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Montoya will have his work cut out for him on Sunday. A task he is well used to after this year’s Indy 500. (photo: Mark Dottle Rubbings Racing)

A major lift in Turn 1 on his first of two timed laps was the culprit for a 19th-place starting spot for Sunday.

“We’ll see what it brings,” Montoya simply stated.

His closest championship rival, Graham Rahal, surprised even himself after qualifying fifth in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing No. 15.

“Starting practice today we were so slow,” Rahal said. “I was really concerned and all of a sudden the car kind of came to life.

“I’m looking to forward to getting out there tomorrow and shooting around here for 500 miles.”

The highlight of the session was, for lack of a better term, ‘high’ for Charlie Kimball who sailed into the Turn 3 wall, lifting and riding the catch fence.

“Maybe I was a little aggressive, but it’s qualifying,” said Kimball who only had a cut on his chin worth two stiches following the wreck. “You have to go for it.”

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Charlie Kimball has one podium finish in 2015, coming at Indianapolis. (photo – Mark Dottle Rubbings Racing)

A 48-minute red flag followed before qualifying could resume.

Rounding out the top 10 starters is Josef Newgarden in fourth – the highest American driver – with Carlos Munoz sixth, Justin Wilson seventh with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Sebastian Bourdais.

The two hometown favorites, Marco Andretti and Sage Karam, showed promise in practice but were far off the top times – ended the session 22nd and 20th, respectively.

Andretti had a close call on the first lap, which he believes cost him a much better qualifying position.

“The car went down into (Turn) 1 and it just didn’t turn,” Andretti said. “It really caught me off guard. I almost hit the wall with the right front. I think we got a little greedy, but luckily it’s 500 miles of racing tomorrow.”

For the third time since the track’s return to the schedule, Pocono will have speed, strategy and maybe an adjustment of two that will decide who gets the checkered flag.

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About Zach Catanzareti

Zach Catanzareti serves as a Contributing Writer in the NASCAR department for Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@zachracing) for the latest NASCAR updates. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania, he also follows IndyCar and Formula 1.

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