Pagenaud wins pole, moves closer to IndyCar crown

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San Francisco—France’s Simon Pagenaud moved closer to capturing his first IndyCar title by winning pole position for Sunday’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma while Australian rival Will Power qualified fourth Saturday.
Points leader Pagenaud waited until the last moments of time trials to turn the fast lap at 1 min 16.257 secs over the 2.385-mile (3.8km) permanent road course to edge Brazil’s Helio Castroneves by .156 of a second.
“It was super fast,” Pagenaud said. “It’s what I call ‘animal instinct’ — you don’t think, you just go. That’s when it’s the best way to race.”
Pagenaud gained his seventh pole-winner’s bonus point in the IndyCar season standings this season and will lead his Penske racing teammate Power 556-512 when the green flag flies on Sunday’s 85-lap showdown.
“It’s awesome. So proud of the team. What a season. Seven poles. I’m super excited. I knew we could do it,” Pagenaud said.
“It’s very gratifying but the biggest thing is how good the car has been through the whole qualifying session.”
Pagenaud will clinch the crown with a top-five finish no matter how Power fares.
Power must finish in the top five to have any hope of overtaking Pagenaud. He will start on the outside of row two after trailing Penske teammates Pagenaud, Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya in qualifying.
“We’re just not quite on the pace. Can’t put my finger on it. We’ve been there but not right there. It has been the story all weekend,” Power said.
“If it’s a straightforward race it’s going to be pretty tough to beat Simon. But IndyCar throws curve balls here and there. You never know.
“I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but we’ll take every opportunity to win the championship.”—AFP