Andretti grabs pole for IndyCar season-finale at Fontana
Fontana, CA (Sports Network) - Marco Andretti claimed the pole for Saturday night's IZOD IndyCar Series season-ending race after topping Ryan Briscoe by a very slim margin in qualifying at Auto Club Speedway.
With temperatures soaring to 103 degrees during Friday's qualifying at this two-mile Southern California racetrack, Andretti posted a two-lap average of 216.069 mph. He earned his second career IndyCar pole but his first since June 2008 at Milwaukee (76 races ago).
Andretti beat Briscoe for the pole by just 0.0032 seconds.
"It means a lot because of what we've been going through this year, particularly with me," said Andretti, who is currently ranked 17th in points. "It's been a very trying year for me and my career. It's good for our confidence."
While Andretti will start on the pole for the 500-mile race at Fontana, his Andretti Autosport teammate and championship contender Ryan Hunter-Reay will have his work cut out in battling for the title. Hunter-Reay qualified 17th but will have to start from the rear of the field since he is one of 14 drivers who incurred a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change.
"Not a great qualifying run for us, but it's a 500-mile race, so really not that bummed about it," Hunter-Reay said. "We just hadn't dialed our qualifying trim in with the car, and that kind of got us. We missed the balance, and (the car) took off on me a bit there at the exit. It was definitely hard to put two good laps together."
Hunter-Reay, who won two weeks ago on the streets of downtown Baltimore, is presently 17 points behind leader Will Power, who qualified third. Power received a penalty for an engine change as well and therefore will start 13th.
"I think we have a good car, but it's going to be a long race," Power said. Anything can happen, but the (team) is focused. I feel good, and we'll just do our thing."
Helio Castroneves, who is Briscoe and Power's teammate at Team Penske, is 52 points out of the lead, while Scott Dixon from Chip Ganassi Racing trails by 53. Dixon qualified fifth and Castroneves 10th, but both drivers will drop 10 spots on the grid for replacing their engines.
Andretti and Briscoe did not make engine changes, as they will start on the front row. Rookie Josef Newgarden qualified fourth but will lineup third due to Power's penalty.
Alex Tagliani placed sixth in qualifying, followed by Tony Kanaan, J.R. Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter.
This will be the first IndyCar race at Fontana since 2005. It's scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m. (ET).
09/14 19:37:43 ET