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Simon Pagenaud claims second Toronto pole in three years

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

TORONTO – As Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud completed what proved to be a pole-winning lap in Saturday’s Honda Indy Toronto qualifying session at Exhibition Place, NTT IndyCar Series rivals were sliding off pace.

Simon Pagenaud with the Firestone Firehawk after winning the NTT P1 Award. Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher

Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport bounced off the outside wall in Turn 6, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon spun early in his final timed lap. Neither probably had the speed to match Pagenaud, but it made for an adventurous watch in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session.

“Yeah, that was a pole run right there, man,” Dixon joked before fessing up. “I’d only done two corners, so I have no idea.”

RESULTSHonda Indy Toronto qualifying results 

With a lap of 58.4293 seconds, 110.041 mph, on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary downtown street circuit, the result was Pagenaud’s second pole of the season the 12thcareer top qualifying position for the driver of the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. In May, Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge from the pole.

Simon Pagenaud placing the NTT P1 Award sticker on the rear wing of his car. Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher

Pagenaud will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, SiriusXM Radio, Channel 209).

“It was a great day, really,” Pagenaud said. “Great weekend so far. I’ve had the most fun ever in Toronto. The car has just been amazing. The engine, Chevrolet, provided us a bit of an update this weekend and I think it’s really showing. I think the horsepower down Lake Shore (Boulevard) really helped to get pole. But also, just tying every corner so well together.

“It’s so exciting in the car. I just had so much fun just being on the limit and finding further limits every lap. It was just a great lap. We really put down a big lap and I’m really proud for the DXC Technology people that are here this weekend. It’s a big event for them and I love this track, so it’s great to really be able to kick it to the next gear for the end of the championship.”

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher

Pagenaud had the fastest lap in each of the three practices here, but he respected the potential of Rossi, Dixon and others to knock him off his perch.

“At the end of qualifying, everybody goes out to the maximum limit, so obviously the lap times get closer and closer and closer,” he said.

Pagenaud stopped short of saying the car’s strength has made it a smooth ride this weekend, but he described the performance of the car as versatile and predictable. A driver can extract a lot of speed when those qualities exist in a car.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Chris Owens

“It’s honestly a pleasure to drive this weekend,” Pagenaud said. “I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.”

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, earned the second starting position with a lap of 58.4293 seconds (109.730 mph). Rounding out the top five, respectively, were Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist (58.6793 sec. / 109.572), Rossi (58.9215 / 109.121) and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (59.3103 / 108.406).

Local favorite James Hinchcliffe will start 14th in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Motorsports Honda.

To watch today’s qualifying highlights in less than five minutes, please visit https://youtu.be/D3mVixC6A4g.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Honda Indy Toronto qualifying

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “I went for it in the Firestone Fast Six. I knew it was going to take a big lap and I just went for it. I was really aggressive in Turn 11 and got into the wall and bent the toe link. I went for it and tried to make it happen. Our Hitachi Chevrolet has been fast all weekend, it’s just been difficult to get clean runs. Simon (Pagenaud) did a great job, he’s been fast all weekend. We got a good starting spot. The top six is where you need to be, so now we can race.  I think our race car is good. I just don’t have enough data yet. It’s good we have a warmup. That will help us. Just how strong are we gonna be? I just don’t know yet.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a difficult day here at the track. I feel like we went through some stuff that we thought was going to work and it just didn’t. Then for qualifying, we just didn’t want to risk it all again and take big swings on the car, so we stuck to what we thought was OK and that’s how we qualified. We also had a small problem before qualifying, my car wouldn’t shift, so unfortunately, I didn’t get to do two runs, but it is what it is. I think we didn’t have the pace to advance even if we had done the second run, so let’s work on the warmup tomorrow to try and figure out what’s the best car for us for the race and go race.” 

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “The Arrow car made some strides in Practice 3, we closed the gap to guys like (Alexander) Rossi and (Scott) Dixon in a big way. A couple hundredths (of a second) puts us in…I definitely think we lost the group lottery on that one; I think Group 1 was a little bit less stacked than Group 2, but at the end of the day, you have to be faster than everybody. We’ve got a long race tomorrow and we’ll do what we can to make our way to the front. This series, it’s tough to move forward at all, we have such a talented field. With such a short lap, there’s not a lot of corners to make a gain on other guys. We’ve had really good Sundays, really good car on race days so far this year, so I’m confident we can pick off some of these guys. Our Arrow guys have been great in the pits, fastest in the pits at Road America. We just need to do what we’ve been doing on Sundays, execute well, make smart decisions on the racetrack, call strategy well and I think we’ll be fighting for a top five.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I think we made good steps forward and we were competitive in qualifying. We were on for a really good lap in the middle of the session, then I went really wide and hit the wall, and unfortunately, bent the left rear of the car. We tried to fix it, but there just wasn’t enough time. It’s just very disappointing. It feels very similar to the race weekend in Road America; we were struggling on Friday, learning the track for me was a challenge. But then on Saturday we made good steps in Practice 3, and in Qualifying it seemed like we had the pace to transfer. Small mistakes made a difference today. We know the Arrow car is quick, I know I can drive it fast. We can still fight tomorrow – that’s the aim. We’re going to get up tomorrow and be ready to fight and go up through the field. A disappointing day today, but we have another chance tomorrow.” 

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): 
“It felt really good in the PNC Bank car. We were up around a tenth and a half the lap before in the last corner. It’s been hard to get track space, and (Simon) Pagenaud has been really tough all weekend, so far. We didn’t really get a clear lap in the practice sessions. But I’ve been confident in the car, and Felix (Rosenqvist) has been just as fast all weekend, so that’s obviously great for the team to have here in Toronto. Maybe that last lap could have been the pole lap, but you have to finish them to see what would have been. The second-place start for us last year worked out well and turned into a win, so we hope to replicate that tomorrow.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s been a good weekend in the NTT DATA/CESSNA car, with top-three results every session so far. That’s always a good thing, and that shows that you have good confidence in the car and that the setup is good. Now the next stage is to work on the setup for the race, and that is obviously a different beast. It’s just been awesome all weekend long, and it’s good to see Scott (Dixon) up there as well. I think both of us had a shot at the pole today, but unfortunately, neither of us managed to get it.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’ve had a bit of a rough weekend so far. We’ve taken some big swings in set up. We just didn’t get it today. I had some bad shifts on the lap that would have got us through. We just weren’t good enough. I think I lost a little confidence when I spun in the first practice there in Turn 11. We are just a ways off.  If there are yellows, we can make up the positions. We are hoping for one of those races tomorrow.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “The way that the groups were, actually, cost us three positions in qualifying. We were quicker actually than four cars – the way they stagger (the lineup) – so it looks worse than it is, but I think we’ve been closer to the people we’re fighting for to be in the top 12 than we were in the past few weeks, so I guess that’s a positive thing. Obviously, we still have a lot of things to work on, but all in all, I think we found a direction, which is what I’m banking on for tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): 
“It’s been a challenging weekend. There have been times when we’ve been decent and there have been times like in Round 2 of qualifying that I had nothing for them. We struggled a little bit in Practice 1 and in Practice 3, but Practice 2 gave us a glimpse of being competitive. We’re going to start 12th in the race and I’m not really pleased with that. We have been struggling in a couple of areas and it has cost us in lap time. Hopefully, we will find a little bit of speed for the race. We don’t have to be the fastest car tomorrow, but we’re going to need good strategy. We’ve seen a lot of guys win here that didn’t start up front. In fact, sometimes it benefits you if you don’t start up front because you can take a flyer on strategy.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 MOUSER Honda):
 “We made a big step this weekend, but when the field is that close and we are just a tenth off, it bites you. I had two fairly similar laps on the red (Firestone alternate) tires with ups and downs on both. The car was just a tiny bit unpredictable under braking, so I left some on the table for sure. We are still a few adjustments away, but when it comes down to those kind of margins, I want to be the one who makes a difference and brings it home for the team and our sponsors.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): 
“The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing car was really good today, but I wasn’t on top of my game. I made too many mistakes in qualifying and missed a little bit of the windows with the tires. It wasn’t a good qualifying session for us. It’s a nice track, but it’s a tough one. We’ll try and make up for it tomorrow. It’s a massive strategy race, so we’ll see how it goes.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): “It was a good qualifying session. We made a good jump up from practice and really made some solid improvements. It was great to be P1 in the first round and fourth in the second. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have it on the older red (Firestone alternate) tires, but we’ve still got to be really pleased with sixth. We’re starting back up at the front again, and hopefully, we can have a strong race tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet): “It’s good to be starting inside the top 10. I would have liked to have been a bit higher up, but we’ve had a solid car all weekend. We’ll make a few more changes and get the Autogeek Chevy a little bit better for the race. I’m really looking forward to the race.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a great day, really. Great weekend so far. I’ve had the most fun ever in Toronto. The car has just been amazing. The engine, Chevrolet, provided us a bit of an update this weekend and I think it’s really showing. I think the horsepower down Lake Shore (Boulevard) really helped to get pole. But also, just tying every corner so well together. It’s so exciting in the car. I just had so much fun just being on the limit and finding further limits every lap. It was just a great lap. We really put down a big lap and I’m really proud for the DXC Technology people that are here this weekend. It’s a big event for them and I love this track, so it’s great to really be able to kick it to the next gear for the end of the championship.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “It’s been a tough couple of days. We just feel like we’ve been behind the eight-ball a little bit all weekend. Things felt good that last run in qualifying, but we had an extremely tough group. I think every single one of the guys in our group had a chance to make it into the Firestone Fast Six, so it was very close. We just weren’t fast enough. Part of that is on me, part of that is on what we put together. We’ll just go back tonight and figure out what we can do to make a good race tomorrow. Last year we went from 22nd to seventh. If we can have a day similar to that, we’ll be happy.

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I hit the wall out of Turn 6, it’s been a difficult corner for us all weekend. Ultimately, after seeing the results, it probably cost us third, versus the pole. Simon (Pagenaud) has been strong all weekend and was hard to beat today. We gave away a spot, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t as big of a penalty as I thought it would be.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We made it out of Round 1 pretty cleanly and then in Round 2, I just got loose into Turn 5. That’s all it takes – one corner, one lap. We just lost it by two-tenths. That’s the gap to miss it, unfortunately, but hopefully, we’ll go get them tomorrow and move the DHL car to the front.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) : “We are obviously disappointed not to be in the final segment of qualifying, but we are just not quite there. Considering we had an issue in Practice 2, we are relieved to be in the top 10, but we still need to work hard on our setup for the race. This track has always presented exciting, unpredictable races. I hope we have a strong enough car to overtake and gain some positions and have the right strategy.” 

SAGE KARAM (No. 31 SmartStop Self Storage Carlin Chevrolet): “My first street course qualifying since 2015 is in the books and it was definitely tougher than I thought it was going to be. I knew coming in it was going to be a pretty steep uphill learning curve that I’d be facing, but I think I just underestimated how much grip I’d get from the red (Firestone alternate) tires and I didn’t take full advantage of that grip gain. Unfortunately, if you don’t hit it on a certain lap, you aren’t going to get another opportunity to get as good of a lap time. It’s all just part of this weekend’s learning process – making sure I learn the car and the track and then moving onto really understanding the different compounds of the tires. I’d say, for the most part, it’s been a pretty good weekend, even if it’s not showing in our results with the No. 31 SmartStop Self Storage Carlin Chevrolet. But given the circumstance, I think we’re in a good place heading into the race tomorrow. Anything can happen at this race, so we just need to keep our nose to the ground and keep pushing forward.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “It was unbelievably close out there today. We just barely missed out on advancing into the second round – we were actually only five hundredths of a second off from moving the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet into the top 12. We’ve come a long way in our damper program over the last few weeks and we definitely noticed a big change this weekend. It’s the first qualifying session I came into with no concerns about pace, which means I just didn’t get enough out of it for qualifying, but I felt like I did a really good job. This track is so unbelievably tight – it’s a proper driver’s track. I mean, I was just watching the second round of qualifying on the screen and the amount of oversteer and understeer through these corners is quite amazing. We have some work to do tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible place for tomorrow, but I’m feeling good about our race pace.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “The No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda just didn’t have the pace in qualifying today. But this race seems to be very interesting and the windows are very big for pitting, so the field can flip flop. We’ve seen guys who start in the front of the field finish in the back and the guys who start in the back make it to the front. We have a very good race car baseline and we’ve been fast in most races, so looking for a great strategy and a great race.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 UniFirst / Curb Honda): “It’s one of those things, when you miss by a tenth there are a hundred-million things that could have put you in (to the Firestone Fast Six). I just need to pass the average amount of cars I’ve been passing in the races, and we’ll be looking good. Really happy with the UniFirst car – so far so good, and we just need to execute tomorrow.” 

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