Helio Castroneves waves to the crowd during introductions for the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Photo by Edwin Locke/UPI | License Photo
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Helio Castroneves reached a level a select few have achieved in IndyCar history by taking the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.
Castroneves collected the landmark 50th pole position of his IndyCar career by running a lap of 1 minute, 41.3007 seconds (142.649 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three rounds of knockout qualifying on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course in east-central Wisconsin.
The driver of the No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet broke a tie for third on the all-time list with Bobby Unser, leaving Castroneves behind only Mario Andretti (67) and A.J. Foyt (53) atop the IndyCar career poles chart.
"Our REV Group car was really on rails, especially when we started laying down laps in the end with the new red Firestone (alternate) tires," Castroneves said. "The car was really, really good.
"When we saved the tires till the end, we made some adjustments that were just perfect, just perfect. ... I was able to lay down a good lap."
Castroneves led a Team Penske sweep of the top four qualifying positions. Joining him on the front row in Sunday's race will be Will Power, whose lap of 1:41.3611 (142.564 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet puts the defending Road America race winner on the first row for the third time in four career starts at the track.
"Really happy to be on the front row," said Power, who led 46 of 50 laps to win from the pole a year ago at Road America. "Obviously to be clipped by the old guy (Castroneves) just there on the line, (by) six-hundredths (of a second) -- he gets faster as he gets older, like wine, matured."
Josef Newgarden qualified third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet (1:41.6608, 142.143 mph), with reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud fourth in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:42.0385, 141.617 mph). It marked the fourth time that Team Penske has swept the top four qualifying positions for an Indy car race, with Castroneves' pole the 251st in team history.
"We've all been fast all weekend," said Newgarden, who equaled his season-best qualifying performance. "We knew it was going to be tough to beat us top four. What is good, we've kind of had the top four spots with all of us all weekend. We wanted to make sure we continued that in qualifying and the race. Luckily, we didn't really drop in performance, so that was good."
Scott Dixon remained the only Verizon IndyCar Series driver to reach the Firestone Fast Six at every event where it's been held this season. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver qualified fifth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda (1:42.9308, 140.389 mph). Graham Rahal will start sixth in the No. 15 GEHL / D-A Lubricant Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:45.0464, 137.562 mph).
Marco Andretti set a season-best qualifying performance on a road or street course and will start eighth in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:42.8614, 140.484 mph). Mikhail Aleshin, forced to miss practice Friday while settling visa issues to allow him to travel to the United States, was back in the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda Saturday and qualified 19th (1:43.8891, 139.094 mph).
"I'm happy to be here," said the Russian driver, who had been stuck in France following last week's 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. "I'm happy I got the visa. I'm happy to race for this team, in this series, in this country."