By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Mikhail Aleshin rocketed around Pocono Raceway to claim his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series pole in his 30th start.
The Russian, who nearly claimed his first series win in the previous round at Mid-Ohio, set the quickest time in this morning’s practice session and backed that up during qualifying to log a 220.445 mph average en route to pole at the 2.5-mile oval in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
“That’s amazing,” said an ecstatic Aleshin. “It’s my first pole in IndyCar and I’m so happy to bring car No. 7 the pole, the team did an amazing job. We had a couple of moments in Turn 1, but I just decided to keep it flat and see what happened. The wall didn’t happen but the pole position happened!”
The pole also gives Schmidt Peterson Motorsports a clean sweep of the top spot on the superspeedways, as James Hinchcliffe won the pole at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Penngrade Motor Oil.
Josef Newgarden will start in second place for the third time this season (Indianapolis and Iowa, previously), just under 1/10th of a second behind Aleshin. Takuma Sato put down his best qualifying run of the season in 3rd place at a track where team owner AJ Foyt has won four times at.
Flanking Sato on the outside of the second row will be last year’s Pocono pole sitter Helio Castroneves, who was the only other Chevrolet in the top five along with Newgarden. Honda claimed the next three positions as Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz and Aleshin’s SPM Racing teammate James Hinchcliffe will start fifth and sixth respectively followed by the Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi in seventh.
Juan Pablo Montoya managed to make the qualifying line after crashing in this morning’s practice session. His Verizon Team Penske crew hastily rebuilt from structural spares from the Team Penske camp’s cars and qualified 15th. His Team Penske teammate and series points leader Simon Pagenaud struggled in the windy conditions and only mustered a 2 lap average good enough for 14th place.
Charlie Kimball also crashed in this morning’s practice session but was ready to qualify and ended up in 16th place. Last year’s Pocono winner Ryan Hunter-Reay also crashed heavily in practice, destroying his No. 28 DHL Honda. His team was unable to get the backup car ready in time which relegates Hunter-Reay to starting in 22nd and last place.
Scott Dixon also had a disappointing qualifying run and ended the day in 19th place, his worst starting spot on an oval since qualifying 15th at Pocono in 2014, a race he would go on to win.
Final practice for the ABC Supply 500 will start at 5pm EST and can be watched at racecontrol.indycar.com while tomorrow’s race can be seen live at 3pm EST on the NBC Sports Network.