Photo: Chris Owens
Helio Castroneves took pole for the second consecutive race and extended a Team Penske (Chevy) streak of seven straight pole awards, a run that spans the last two Verizon IndyCar Series seasons.
Castroneves (#3) recorded a quick lap of 1 min, 7.1925 sec on the 2.3 -mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course. The pole was Castroneves' 43rd, placing him fourth all-time in Indy car history, behind Bobby Unser (49).
"It's all about team effort," said Castroneves, who entered the race weekend three points behind front-runner Montoya in the championship standings. "For us, every practice is qualifying. That helped us to push ourselves to be in this position. It's not about because we have success here. I think it's part of it, but it's in the equipment. At the end of the day, it's a team effort. Everyone is working hard."
Power (#1 Penske) was second quickest (1:07.3833) in the final round of knockout qualifying and posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 1:06.8050 in the second 10-min segment. Scott Dixon set the lap record of 1:06.7750 (123.999 mph) in the first round of knockout qualifications in 2013.
Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud (#22) qualified third and Dixon (#9 Chip Ganassi, Chevy) fourth. Josef Newgarden (#67 CFH Racing, Chevy) and Tony Kanaan (#10 Ganassi) shared Row 3. It was the second top-six start in a row for Newgarden.
"I just don't think we're right up there for pole territory, but at least we're in consistent Fast Six territory," said Newgarden, whose best qualifying position on a road-street course is second on three different occasions. "That's a good improvement for us. We're definitely getting there. I'm excited about that but I'm a little worried about (the race). I think we've got a little work to do on our race car, to make it consistently fast over a stint."
Castroneves held the lead at the start, followed by Power and Newgarden, who jumped from fifth to third. Newgarden passed Power at the end of the first lap to take second.
Power pitted during Lap 20 but collided with Takuma Sato (#14 AJ Foyt Racing, Honda) on pit exit. Castroneves’ stop was slowed by a lost wheel nut. The cars circulated under caution as debris from the Power-Sato collision was gathered; Newgarden leading Castroneves and Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda). A subsequent drive-through penalty removed Power from contention.
Green-flag racing resumed to start Lap 40, with Rahal in front followed by James Hinchcliffe and Kanaan. Rahal made his second to the last stop during Lap 47, followed by Hinchcliffe one lap later. Hinchcliffe beat Rahal out of pit exit, but Rahal took the position back on track after just a few turns.
Newgarden was in the lead during Lap 53, followed by Castroneves and Dixon, but none of them had pitted since Lap 35. Newgarden and Castroneves traded the lead, with Newgarden emerging out front during Lap 55. Dixon put the Brazilian into third two laps later.
Newgarden pitted during Lap 64. Dixon came in one lap later. Rahal assumed the lead and pitted from it during Lap 70, leaving the Top 3 as Newgarden, Dixon, and Castroneves. Newgarden’s team felt he could make it to the end without pitting. Rahal passed Castroneves to take third with 9 laps left.
Rahal was cutting 2 sec/lap from Newgarden’s lead during the race’s final laps, as the leading car tried to save fuel. Dixon continued to run between the two. Rahal passed Dixon during the final lap. But Newgarden remained in the lead to take his first career IndyCar victory.
"This is the way I wanted to do it. I didn't want to win on some crazy incident, or on luck," Newgarden said. "This team deserves it. They gave me an incredible car and let me get out there and rip with the thing and pass people on pure merit. And that's due to CFH Racing - they were just incredible today. We're going up against the giants, but I think this team can be a giant one day."