Castroneves Wins Final Verizon P1 Pole Award of 2014

August 30, 2014

Fontana, Calif. (August 29, 2014) – Helio Castroneves put some drama into Team Penske’s quest for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Castroneves won the Verizon P1 Pole Award Friday for the MAVTV 500, Saturday’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway. He knocked Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya from the pole as the last driver to qualify, giving Castroneves a bonus point in the championship battle.

The single point put him within 50 points of teammate Will Power, who had an uncharacteristically poor qualifying result and will start 21st when Saturday night’s race begins at 10:20 p.m. ET.

Castroneves recorded a two-lap average of 218.540 mph around the two-mile oval in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

"Yes! That's exactly what we needed to start this weekend,” said Castroneves. “The Auto Club Chevy guys did a great job today and winning the Verizon Pole Award feels fantastic. I really have to thank my guys and Will (Power) and Juan Pablo (Montoya). Going out last (in qualifying) really helped because I was able to get my teammates' feedback and we made some changes that really helped us get the pole. Now, we need to keep going. We are starting up front but it is a long race and we know what we need to do to make it happen. This is the first step. Now we need to make sure we end up where we start tomorrow night."

Power, who went out midway through the qualifying session, encountered issues with a loose-handling race car on his first lap and recorded a two-lap average of 212.640 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

"For starting positions we would have liked the Verizon Chevy to start from the front, but starting in both the front or very back can help keep you out of trouble,” stated Power, who last season’s finale at Auto Club Speedway. “From the back you learn what your car is like in traffic and we will have 3 hours to do it.  It will be a long race. We have another practice tonight to work on things, as the Verizon Chevy was too loose. The start is to be there at the end and it's far from over. The Verizon Chevy boys are  going to do everything possible to make it happen."

Montoya, completing his first season after returning to IndyCar racing, was the second qualifier and held the top position throughout the session until Castroneves topped it. Instead, Montoya will start second after posting a two-lap average of 217.621 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

“I feel that we have a really good Verizon Chevy,” said Montoya. “We really had it set up for race trim, so I wasn’t expecting it to be that good for qualifying. But it was. It was really quick, especially for the hot conditions that we had to qualify in. We ran the same time that we ran this morning and it was much hotter. I’ll be honest I didn’t think that time would hold up that well. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the Verizon P1 Pole Award. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow night.”

Castroneves said he became worried when he saw Power encounter problems.

“When I saw him up the track like that I said to myself, ‘we’re in trouble,” continued Castroneves. “Our setups were fairly close together so, yeah, that was a bit concerning. But the car stuck really well and we are starting up front.”        
Power indicated he wasn’t terribly concerned with starting at the back of the pack and thinks cooler temperatures and Auto Club Speedway’s wide racing surface will help him move through the field.

“It’s such a long race and the track is very racy,” said Power. “There is plenty of time for us to move up through the field and the track is definitely one on which you can pass. Would I like to be starting in the top 10, sure. It’s a much easier road starting up there, but we can still accomplish our goals.”

Montoya, who finished fifth last weekend at Sonoma Raceway, is currently sixth in the championship standings.

“It’s been a really good year for me,” continued Montoya. “To be near the top of the standings has made it exciting, but we still have one more race to try and win.”

NBC Sports Network’s broadcast coverage of Saturday’s race begins at 9 p.m. ET.