FORT WORTH, Texas (June 5, 2015) – Will Power earned the Verizon P1 Award for the third consecutive year at the Texas Motor Speedway oval and tied a legendary Indy car driver for career pole positions in the process.
Driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power recorded a two-lap average speed of 218.519 mph (47.9410 cumulative seconds) as the first of 23 Verizon IndyCar Series qualifiers for the Firestone 600 to be run under the lights June 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). It is Power’s fourth pole this season and 40th of his 11-year career, tying him with retired Team Penske driver Rick Mears for fifth place on the all-time list.
Power set track qualifying lap records earlier this season on street courses at St. Petersburg and Detroit Belle Isle, as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He was six-tenths of a second off his 2013 Texas Motor Speedway two-lap qualifying record on the 1.455-mile, high-banked oval and led a Team Penske sweep of the top-three qualifying positions.
“When I drew No. 1 (in the qualifying order), I was a bit worried about conditions, but it stayed consistent throughout the whole run of qualifying,” said Power. “I was really happy to get pole, honestly. I felt if I could be in the top five, I’d be happy. Starting first, really happy about that.”
Power will be seeking his second victory at Texas Motor Speedway in the 248-lap event. He won the second race of the same-day doubleheader in 2011.
“The race will be interesting,” he said. “There are many (aero kit) components you can put on the car to add downforce, but it’s really draggy so it’s going to be about finding the compromise between speed loss and grip.”
Simon Pagenaud, fastest in the late-morning practice in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, earned his third front-row start of the season with a two-lap average speed of 218.441 mph.
“I just missed it by a little bit,” said Pagenaud, who posted the fastest lap of the practice session at 218.744 mph.
Helio Castroneves, who has won four times at Texas Motor Speedway, qualified third (218.069 mph) in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet. Carlos Munoz, winner of the first race last weekend at Belle Isle, broke the Penske stranglehold up front by qualifying fourth (217.831 mph) in the No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda for Andretti Autosport.
Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (217.530) and Graham Rahal (217.438) qualified on Row 3.
“Starting up toward the front with these boys is exactly where we need to be. Obviously, points are a big focus for us right now,” said Rahal, who is fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. “It is going to be a tough race; everybody is going to have to manage their tires as well as they can. I feel like our race car is pretty good and I feel like track position is going to be pretty important here, too.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, uninjured in a crash in the morning practice, qualified his repaired No. 28 DHL Honda 21st.
Castroneves Looking to Make Name for Himself
There’s Foyt Drive and Andretti Avenue, Rutherford and Sneva roads – arteries that lead from the Victory Circle perimeter road to the Texas Motor Speedway gates. Helio Castroneves, a four-time winner in 17 Indy car starts on the 1.455-mile oval with Team Penske, has lobbied track president Eddie Gossage to join the other Indy car legends for a stretch of pavement to be named in his honor.
“I mean, I am the only four-time Verizon IndyCar Series winner at the track,” Castroneves said. “(Gossage) assured me that if I make it five wins, there will be a ‘Helio Castroneves Boulevard’ at Texas Motor Speedway.”
From Racing Producer to Broadway Producer
Less than 24 hours after wrapping NBCSN’s June 6 telecast of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Terry Lingner will be in the audience at Radio City Music Hall in New York expectantly waiting to hear “And the winner is …” during the 69th Tony Awards show.
Lingner, his wife Louise and son Chris are among the producers of “On The Town,” which has garnered four Tony Award nominations, including “Best Revival of a Musical.”
It’s an exhilarating and interesting synergy – for years Lingner has produced live theater on racetracks across the globe and now he is involved in the production of live theater on the Broadway stage.
The musical comedy about three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York during World War II who find adventure and romance, was created for the stage in 1944 with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It also was a 1949 feature film starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.
“I’ve been in sports my whole life and both my sons (Chris and Cory) were exposed to sports early on. I put them in a go-kart as soon as they could walk,” Lingner said. “They also went into a dance studio in Clermont (Ind.) and loved it and thrived.”
Cory, who attended the University of Oklahoma, played the Gene Kelly role in the university’s production of “On The Town” during his senior year. Theatrical ambitions led him to New York, and soon afterward a casting call went out for the show. He’s an ensemble member and understudy for two of the leads.
“All of these serendipitous things happened with Cory being cast,” Lingner said.
Globe-hopping Bell Back with NBCSN Crew
Townsend Bell is logging a lot of miles lately – on the racetrack and in the air. Between driving in the Indianapolis 500, racing sports cars on two continents and his gig as an NBCSN analyst on Verizon IndyCar Series broadcasts, the 40-year-old Californian is in the midst of a most hectic and varied schedule.
Since May 1, Bell has:
* Driven a Ferrari 458 in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California (May 3);
* Spent two weeks in Indianapolis, where he practiced, qualified, raced and finished 14th in the 99th Indianapolis 500 (and worked for NBCSN on Carb Day);
* Driven the Ferrari 458 in the Detroit Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix sports car race (May 30);
* Hopped on a plane to France immediately after the Detroit race to test a different Ferrari (May 31) in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled for June 13-14;
* Flew back to the United States to resume his NBCSN duties this weekend for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, Bell included.
“It’s starting to get a little confusing when I open my backpack to pull out my proper (race series) credential for the day,” Bell joked. “I’m starting to forget who I am and what I am supposed to be doing, between the TV commitments and sports cars here, sports cars there and the Indy 500. Frankly, it’s been a blast. Sure, the time zones can get a little exhausting and the travel’s a little irritating, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I’m having a great time.”
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon P1 Award Winner): “I drew number one obviously this morning in the drivers meeting. I was a little worried about the conditions. It kind of stayed consistent over the whole run of qualifying. I was really happy to get pole honestly. I felt if I could be in the top five, I’d be happy. Starting first, really happy about that. The race, it’s going to be interesting. You got all this stuff you can put on to add downforce if you want. But it’s quite draggy, so you lose a bit of speed. It’s going to be about finding the right compromise for speed loss versus grip. I guess we’ll try some things tonight and see how it all stacks up. I think you’ll see a few different variations of what people bolt on as far as body kits go for the race. I’ve always liked this place a lot. It’s fun to drive. It’s not just stuck. The car moves around. It’s hard. I feel like it’s a real driver’s oval. I enjoy that. My wife’s from here, so I got the whole family out here. I got the pressure to always do well. Otherwise, won’t be invited to dinner.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We took all the downforce out of the car and see where it runs. I think we are pretty good. The balance is not there yet. We need some work to do to be a little quicker, but it is what it is. The aero kits drive a little different. We are just trying to figure out what we need to do and where we need to run. We have options to run a lot more downforce if we want to. It is a big penalty so you have to figure out what is the best compromise.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a good run for the AAA Chevrolet. We know the car is strong and Team Penske is all working together as a team. But we know here, it really doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish and we feel we have a strong car for the race.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “It was the first time for me on a high banked oval. To be honest any ovals are new to me. Unfortunately in practice this morning we had a problem with the car, which meant I lost about 35 minutes of the session and on a track like this you need as much track time as possible especially when you only have one 75-minute session before qualifying. It was my first time with a half way trim for qualifying as we didn’t have enough time to be fully trimmed out and it was ok, but we could have done more. We will work on our race setup this evening, it will be a little easier with cooler track temps and luckily oval races are long so it won’t matter quite so much where we start.” (On his second oval race and first race at Texas) “Indianapolis and Texas are completely different. Here it is pretty hard, almost like riding a roller coaster. It squishes you down like you were going up and down on a ride. It is a lot of fun to drive and to be honest the first time I got on track this morning, I thought ‘wow this is banked’ but I think by tomorrow I will be used to it.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I sort of screwed the first lap for us and thought we’d be able to run the middle groove of the track. I figured we could run a good lap that way but it was just slow. The second lap, I brought the car down to the white line and had decent speed on tires, but our average was out the window at that point. I felt like we made good changes to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car going into qualifying. We didn’t do any qual sims this morning so I thought it was a good effort by the guys and we just have to work our way forward in the race.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was disappointing because we could’ve been in the top five, I think. We just had a bit of bad luck when we hit the limiter going into turn one. I’m not sure why, we’ll go back and look at it but it definitely cost us quite a bit of speed there. We have a good race car with the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda and we’re just going to focus on tomorrow.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Lexar Chevrolet): “This was my first time here at Texas Motor Speedway so this morning was just about getting comfortable with a higher downforce level compared to my teammates. I really like that qualifying format. We trimmed out a lot compared to this morning, but I am still running a bit more downforce than my teammates so that’s why my speed was a little low.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Energizer Chevrolet): “For the most part it’s about consistency – a consistent car over the stint. That’s the hardest part, the degradation here and the amount you slow down is almost 15 miles per hour in a stint. That’s going to be key, but obviously getting to the end of the race to start with is the big one. I’ve come up short here a few times, but I have a quick car. Hopefully the No. 9 Energizer EcoAdvancedTM Chevrolet is going to be fast. It seems pretty good in long runs.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Our qualifying run was okay – obviously not as fast as we wanted it to be. We did one qualifying run this morning during the practice session and we made some changes we thought would work. Once we went out on track we realized those changes weren’t the best way to go. Qualifying here at Texas Motor Speedway is such an unknown, so it is what it is. We’ll work more on the race setup tonight and make sure everything is good to go for tomorrow night’s race.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “I think the Hydroxycut machine is a good race car. It’s just in qualifying trim we didn’t get it right. That is the problem with just one practice session before qualifying. We didn’t get a good read, so in qualifying the car was a bit too free and we didn’t take enough downforce out. It’s a shame. It is going to make our life a bit harder tomorrow starting 18th.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It’s exciting to be back at Texas Motor Speedway-very fast and it feels good after the very bumpy track at Detroit. We worked on various things this morning because we only had one practice session before qualifying and we had to figure out the qualifying trim and the race package. The car perhaps isn’t fully optimized but I think the boys did a good job and the car is reasonably fast so I will be happy with that and hopefully we’ll have a strong package for tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “Starting up towards the front with these boys is exactly where we need to be. Obviously points are a big focus for us right now. Tomorrow is going to be a tough race; everybody is going to have to manage their tires as well as they can. I feel like our race car is pretty good and I feel like track position is going to be pretty important here too. We’ll just keep working hard and keep our heads down and it will be just fine. For qualifying, the car was pretty loose. We ran more downforce and more drag than some people. Here it is a fine balance: it’s not just about taking off downforce and drag anymore. I’m just happy to have this car up there. I’m proud of this team. These guys have very worked hard. Obviously I’m a part of that but I really give all the credit to them because it’s a different organization and I’m very proud of them. This weekend is a big test for us. We weren’t very happy here last year and we’re just working as hard as we can to put ourselves in a good spot for the race.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The biggest thing for tomorrow is going to be having a good race car. This morning in testing, we didn’t trim out at all in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing car. We are going to go back out there this evening and keep working on our race setup and hopefully all this effort will pay dividends tomorrow for the race.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The practice session tonight will be very important for our car setup for the race tomorrow. This morning was as well. We just did a quick qualifying sim at the same time as everyone else. I was hoping we would have a little more speed, to be honest, and the car felt a little bit better than P16. I was flat across the line and that is the speed you got. It is OK; we will just focus on the race. There will be a lot of things happening in the race and hopefully we will have a good package for tomorrow.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It’s not a speed problem for us, we know how to make the cars go fast. However, it’s hard to do that when the car does not handle well as well as we know it can. We have to figure out how to make this new car work with this new package. We haven’t done a good enough job of that up to this point, but we will keep working on it.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet): “The car is really nice actually. It’s a nice carry over from Indy. Just missed it by a little bit, right? I tried to push it as hard as I could. Yeah, we dropped a bit on the second lap, but hat off to the Team Penske boys. They’re giving us fantastic cars. It makes our lives super easy as a driver. Tonight is going to be a great session, practice in the cool condition. It’s going to be interesting to see how the cars behave in race trim. But this morning was surprisingly pretty good for us on the No. 22 car. (On the aero kits) I think actually INDYCAR is really well balanced with the level of downforce. This morning was interesting. It’s really in our hands to drive the car, slide around a little bit in the corners. The tires are being used up quite a bit because of the lack of downforce. It’s great. It’s giving us the opportunity to really drive hard. There’s a bit of a drop-off I think you’ll see similar to last year where we’re going to start pretty fast, in the 215 mpharea, and then we’re going to drop off in the 205 mph average at the end of a stint. It’s going to be interesting strategy, a lot of passing. That’s what it’s all about here in Texas. Pretty excited about it actually.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “I think it was a good run, you know. Having my two teammates in front help us a lot to settle the car up with the bars, the aero. Have to thank them both for the feedback as well. Going out for qualifying, we thought Chevy would be better than us, all the Chevys, you know. But it seems like only the Penskes were the quick ones. We were faster than the other guys. But just qualifying for the race, hopefully with more aero, we can put more for the Honda tomorrow. We will see how it goes. I think practicing tonight will be closer to the race for tomorrow. We are going to see where we are really. For sure, qualifying is not really important here. But it’s important because it’s hard to pass on this track. Cleaner air, the tires work less. We will see tomorrow. It’s a long race. We have one more practice today, we’ll see.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I’m really happy with the No. 27 crew, we’re really maximizing as much as we can in situations. All we can do is the best we can and we just have to keep plugging. The race here is always interesting and we should be able to find a few spots tomorrow night.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “After having the car in the wall this morning, we had to go with something for qualifying (setup). We had to be a little conservative with it – we certainly missed it, but we expected to, though. Qualifying here at Texas doesn’t mean much, but hopefully we were able to (relay information) to help the teammates out a little bit.” (About qualifying after not being able to shake the car down after its rebuild): “It’s all about faith, you have no choice other than to have trust in the car and have faith that it’s going to be there for you when you go into Turn 1 the first time. It’s definitely a tough thing to do, and most INDYCAR drivers have been there, but we just have to get along with it. Lap 1 is interesting no matter what, but we got through it. We knew we were going to miss it, but we can make up a bunch of spots on Lap 1 tomorrow.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We didn’t have a great qualifying run but practice went pretty good this morning and the car seems to be working pretty decent in race trim. We have one more practice in race trim and we’ll see if we can dial it in to run up high and run down low because we’re going to have to do some passing tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “This morning we were probably the only team that did not do a qualification simulation run, that’s why we appeared to jump up quite a bit in our qualifying times. It’s still not good enough, we’re not where we need to be. It was hard to make up any ground with only a one-hour session and then qualifying. We have another half an hour practice tonight to keep working on it. We’ll keep fighting, we’ve got a great team at CFH Racing. It’s a long night tomorrow, we’re going to put our heads down and see what we can get out of it.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet): “The No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet’s qualifying run was pretty good. We had a little more understeer than we would’ve liked which was too bad because I think we’ve been pretty quick this weekend so far in practice. We spent a lot of time during this morning’s practice working on our race car, so we’ll see where we’re at during tonight’s practice heading into tomorrow’s race.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “The car was a lot more neutral for qualifying. I think we were just too stuck in practice. We had a wheel break in practice, which was pretty scary. After that, we put only a new right rear only on. That threw off our tire run plan a bit and might have sent us in the wrong direction, setup-wise. So we went a little conservative for qualifying; but now I think we’re figuring it out and will be better in race trim.”