By David Morgan, IndyCar Contributor
FORT WORTH, Texas – On a boiling hot afternoon in the Lone Star State, Team Penske flexed their muscle in qualifying for Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 as they snagged the top three starting positions with Josef Newgarden on pole, Simon Pagenaud joining him on the front row, and Will Power in third.
The three Team Penske Chevrolets were the only ones to crack 220 mph in qualifying as Newgarden laid down the fastest lap of the three at 23.480 seconds, 220.613 mph. Pagenaud’s fast lap came at 220.311 mph and Power clocked in at 220.194 mph. With the pole, the organization now has eight poles at Texas.
“It comes down to a lot of things,” Newgarden said of the pole run. “It comes down to the team personnel that we have. We have some of the best people in the paddock and you can see that when you have cars go 1-2-3. It shows the competitiveness of all the cars and that’s the thing that impresses me the most about the team is how competitive they make each car they have and they’re really, really good at that.
“So, it’s a big credit to Team Penske and Team Chevy as well, if you look at the speed we’ve had through the Month of May and the (Indianapolis) 500. I think a lot of that is rolled here and really helped us secure the pole today. Now that we have that, we have good speed. We just need to figure out how to make the car last on tires. That’s the big thing tomorrow night. If we can do that, we’ll be just fine, and I think we can find ourselves back in Victory Lane possibly.”
Friday’s pole marks Newgarden’s second of the season and his first on the 1.5-mile oval as the 2017 series champion still seeks his first win at the track. In six previous starts, Newgarden has only finished in the top-10 once, with that coming in the 2013 race.
As for Pagenaud, his second-place start continues a trend on the ovals this season as the Frenchman has started on the outside pole in the two previous ovals earlier this year. That ties his previous best start at Texas, when he rolled off second back in 2015.
“We seem to qualify front row pretty much on every oval,” said Pagenaud. “We missed the pole every three ovals so far by a little bit, but it was a fantastic effort from the whole No. 22 team. We had a bit of a tough practice this morning and we managed to make the right changes for this afternoon in qualifying.
“I held my breath for those two laps. Managed to keep the pedal to the floor the whole time and the handling was really good.”
Of the three, only Power has a win at Texas, as he was victorious in last season’s race, when the track was newly repaved and reconfigured.
Following the three Team Penske cars was rookie Robert Wickens in a Honda, along with Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, and Ryan Hunter-Reay to round out the top-10 starters for the 248-lap event.
Teams will have one final practice session at 6:15 pm Friday to dial in their cars ahead of Saturday’s 7:40 pm race start time.