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Pagenaud earns 500th pole in Team Penske racing history

NEWTON, Iowa (Saturday, July 9, 2016) – Simon Pagenaud has been setting the standard in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season and he helped take Team Penske to another level today.

Pagenaud, a three-time winner in 2016 and the championship leader after nine of 16 completed races, won the Verizon P1 Award for the Iowa Corn 300, earning the 500th pole position in all racing disciplines in the illustrious history of Team Penske in the process. The driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet circled the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway oval twice at 185.855 mph (34.6334 seconds) to capture his fifth pole position this season, seventh of his Indy car career and coveted No. 500 for boss Roger Penske.

CLICK HERE: Iowa Corn 300 qualifying results

“Five hundred, how cool is that?” the 32-year-old Frenchman asked while wearing a cap with “500” embroidered across the front. “It is just qualifying – we have a lot of work to do this weekend – but it certainly puts a great stamp on the work the No. 22 team has been doing as well as the whole Penske organization.”

All four Team Penske drivers qualified in succession following the blind draw for the order. Pagenaud benefited from being the last of the Penske quartet to make his attempt, receiving information relayed from his teammates about track and car handling conditions.

“It is such a gamble for the engineers in this situation,” he said. “You only get two laps. Conditions from this morning to the afternoon changed. It is fun when you get the car right like this on an oval.

“Chevy has been incredible giving us so much power and such a good aero kit. It’s been comfortable and a lot more to my driving style.”

Pagenaud led a Chevrolet sweep of the top eight qualifying positions. Josef Newgarden, in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, was second fastest with a two-lap average of 185.639 mph (34.6738 seconds). Newgarden is four weeks removed from sustaining a fractured right clavicle and bone in his right hand in a crash during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway that was suspended by rain after 71 laps.

“It’s always tough when you qualify second, you think, ‘Arrrgh!'” said Newgarden, who has finished second in the past two Iowa races. “It’s just really hard to qualify second. You almost wish you qualified fifth or something. That sounds really stupid, but it’s always tough.

“We needed that last little bit, but it’s nothing to complain about. I think we have fast cars. We’ve had fast cars here for the last couple years with Ed Carpenter Racing and I feel really good about our race car.”

Helio Castroneves qualified third in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (185.433 mph, 34.7122 seconds) and will be joined in Row 2 by rookie Max Chilton, who qualified a career-best fourth. Chilton’s two-lap average speed was 185.419 mph (34.7148 seconds) in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.

“Great job by the Ganassi guys,” said Chilton, who won the 2015 Indy Lights race at Iowa. “It was nice to be the fastest (of the four Ganassi drivers), no easy feat. Really happy with that and tomorrow is what counts. I hear no one’s won from pole here, so I’m obviously in the right sort of area to have a good result.”

Defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won three of the past four Iowa races, was uninjured in a morning practice crash in which his Andretti Autosport No. 28 DHL Honda sustained minor rear-end damage. He qualified 20th in the 22-car field. The Andretti team, which has won six straight Iowa Speedway races and seven of the nine to date, struggled as a whole, with Carlos Munoz qualifying 15th, Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi 17th and Marco Andretti 19th.

INDYCAR, Iowa Speedway announce extension through 2018

INDYCAR and Iowa Speedway announced a two-year extension today that will see the Verizon IndyCar Series return to the 0.894-mile oval through the 2018 season. The race dates for the next two Iowa Corn 300 races, both on Sundays, are July 9, 2017, and July 8, 2018.

The Verizon IndyCar Series has raced at Iowa Speedway each year since the facility hosted its first event in 2007, with this year marking the series’ 10th race. Iowa Corn has been a sponsor of the event since its inception, making it the second-longest entitlement sponsorship in INDYCAR.

“The success of our partnership with INDYCAR is a testament to our partnership with Iowa Corn and our loyal race fans in Iowa,” said Jimmy Small, Iowa Speedway president. “The Iowa Corn 300 has become a bucket-list item for race fans and we’re thrilled to make the announcement now so our fans can start planning ahead for the next two epic seven-eighths-mile showdowns.

“We love everything that the Iowa Corn 300 has grown into and I’m proud to have them on board for two more years.”

The Iowa race has become an anchor of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ mid-season schedule, settling into its July date the past three years. Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, noted the stability of the “Fastest Short Track on the Planet” as important to the overall schedule’s continuity.

“Iowa Speedway has become a staple of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and we’re happy to confirm we’ll be returning here in 2017 and 2018,” Frye said. “The level of competition at this track is incredible and showcases some of the best Indy car racing you’ll see all year.

“We’re thankful for the continued support from Iowa Corn and Iowa Speedway track president Jimmy Small. Both of their teams have been instrumental in making this such a strong event.”

In a historic early offering, Iowa Speedway season-ticket holders will have the opportunity to renew beginning July 29-30, ahead of when season tickets go on sale Aug. 2 at the track box office and on IowaSpeedway.com.

Announcement of the 2017 Iowa race brings the number of dates that have been confirmed for next season to seven. Previously announced 2017 races are St. Petersburg (March 12), Long Beach (April 9), the 101st Indianapolis 500 (May 28), the doubleheader weekend at Detroit’s Belle Isle (June 3-4) and Road America (June 25).

Lightz wheel hub LED system to debut in Sunday’s race

Lightz, a revolutionary advertising display system located in the wheel hubs of an Indy car, will debut in race conditions during Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 on the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet driven by Sebastien Bourdais.

Lightz technology, using light-emitting diode (LED) displays, illuminates sponsor logos and real-time race information within the wheel hubs. It also contains the ability to be updated remotely throughout the race.

Speed of Light Media, which developed the technology, tested its capabilities on Bourdais’ car during practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in April, but Sunday’s application will be its first race use.

“This technology is truly a game-changer in racing advertising,” said Guy Margetson, Speed of Light Media founder. “Images can be pre-programmed and even changed during the race. The display is triggered automatically when the car is in motion. Illumination is bright, static and remains upright regardless of speed, resulting in highly visible advertising to both trackside and TV spectators.

“Motorsport media is ideal for product launches and brand awareness campaigns because it is targeted and measurable.”

The technology was developed in conjunction with Verizon IndyCar Series and Formula One teams. Sunday’s race launch at the Iowa Corn 300 follows months of extensive testing. Sponsors Firestone and Cosworth will be displayed on Bourdais’ car.

Speed of Light’s long-term goal is to supply the entire field so that each entry can run individualized sponsorship messages. The capability also exists to display competition information messages directly from INDYCAR.

Veach rides to rescue for children’s hospital visit

Zach Veach, driver in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, is a veteran of children’s hospital visits organized by Racing For Kids, so the 21-year-old Ohioan knows how important they are. When the Belardi Auto Racing driver learned that the annual stop by Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines was in jeopardy due to changing schedules of other drivers slated to attend, Veach didn’t hesitate to volunteer.

Veach made the nearly 500-mile drive from Indianapolis earlier than planned Friday so he could spend time with the young patients at the hospital – many facing painful medical procedures. Blank Children’s Hospital has been a regular stop for Racing For Kids since INDYCAR began racing at Iowa Speedway in 2007.

“Zach did an awesome job,” said Lori De Vries, child life specialist at Blank. “He did a great job of talking to the patients and answering all of their questions about racing and how fast he went. They really enjoyed his visit and learning about Indy racing.”