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Author: Mark W. Theisen
May 13th 2016 -      INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 13, 2016: The historic month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicked off in a big way this afternoon as Simon Pagenaud continued his torrid pace on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar series by capturing the pole position for the third running of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis tomorrow on the 2.429 mile road course built in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

     Pagenaud, the runaway series point leader,  continues to make it look easy and routine in his Team Penske fielded Dallara Chevrolet as he captured his second straight pole, fourth of his career on the heels of winning the last two IndyCar series races.

     Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar series features three distinct sessions with the final one consisting of the fastest six cars through earlier elimination rounds.

     In the closest qualifying and most equal qualifying session of the season it was a battle between the two series engine manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda for the first time after Chevrolet being in complete control the first four races of 2016.  Each manufacturer placed three cars in the “Fast Six” with Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden representing Chevrolet and Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Jacks Hawksworth carrying the Honda banner.

     When it was all over Pagenaud’s 127.832 besting Kimball’s 127.286 to deny Kimball of his first series pole position but still his best starting position in his career.  Rahal finished third at 126.918, Hinchcliffe at 126.837, Newgarden at 126.461 and Hawksworth at 126.311.

     19 of the 25 cars entered for the race posted at least one lap in the 126 mile-per-hour bracket during the triple sessions to indicate just how close the series is but it continues to be Pagenaud with that edge.

     “It’s been incredible, hasn’t it,” said Pagenaud when asked about his day and year thus far.  “I just have to thank Team Penske, they do it all, the people at the shop and everyone in the organization, it makes me look much better than I am when I drive their cars.  They are just that good and I can’t thank them enough for all the do for all of their drivers.”

     “With the equipment I have, I just have to be focused on the task at hand, said Pagenaud.  “You always push yourself and sometimes you make it and sometimes you don’t but driving for this team and what they have accomplished has been both pressure and pleasure.  I was expected to succeed last year and we struggled.  This year, with a season with my team, we have begun to show the progress that I expected when I signed with Penske.”

     “I hope I can carry this one,” continued Pagenaud.  “I have three other teammates that want to do as I am doing to it is staying focused that is key.”

     Kimball, driving for Target Chip Ganassi racing, was excited after being in contention to win the pole.  “This is what we race for, for moments like this,” said Kimball.  “He (Pagenaud) is tough right now, he is mastering all facets of driving and it would have been great to win that first pole, but it is equally important to be in the thick of that battle and now that we are it feels great.”

     Rahal, a two time winner in 2015 on the Verizon IndyCar series, will start third in the Angie’s List Grand Prix for his best starting position of 2016 coming on the heels of a second place finish in the series last race in Alabama.  “In the qualifying format we are using, tire management is as much a key as is speed,” said Rahal.  “The series is highly competitive and to me, it is how you use the allocated sets of tires over the three tiered session.  You have to make it to the “Fast Six” but if you use up your tires to get there, your chances are slim.  We, as a team, are finally getting a hang of this!” 

    The 3rd running of the Angie’s List Grand Prix kicks off at 3:30 tomorrow with temperatures in the 50’s forecasted so it will be different than track temperatures today and Firestone Tire Engineers and race team engineers will have their hands full trying to keep the cars from spinning on cold tires.

    Pagenaud won the first Angie’s List Grand Prix in 2014 while driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports while Team Penske’s Will Power won last year.  One has to pick Pagenaud but others are ready to pounce on him should he falter.

     IndyCar today announced that the Verizon IndyCar series will return to Watkins International Raceway September 1st through the 4th for the 15th race of the 2106 season.  

     This event replaces the race that was to be contested on the streets of Boston on the same weekend but was cancelled two weeks ago when final details his a roadblock.

     Watkins Glen International has hosted nine past Indy car races from 1979-81 and again from 2005-10, and admits to the yeoman task ahead to promote a race in just three months but the track is so well established and well known through the East that track officials seem confident that a good crowd can be attracted.  The fact that the race is the penultimate race of the season and could have a huge impact on the championship race is one big selling point and the race after The Glen is the season finale in California.

     Jack Martin, a former driver, and longtime director of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Old Timer’s club passed away on Tuesday of this week.  Known as the glue that kept the club together, Martin will be missed by the association that features drivers, crewman and track personal as its members.

     Anthony Martin became the first winner of a 2016 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he led from start to finish to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the 2.439 mile road course at the Speedway this afternoon.

     Martin, the fastest qualifier for the 20 lap race, finished 0.5143 seconds ahead of Parker Thompson with Lloyd Jordan, Luo Yufeng and Lucas Kohl rounding out the top five in a race that was slowed by only one caution period for three laps when Dale VanderBush went off the course on lap seven.

     Martin, of Kalgoorlie, Australia, and driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and the defending Rookie of the Year in the series, won for the first time in the series after finishing four in the final 2015 standings.

     The second race of the day featured the cars of the Pro Mazda series in the running of the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the race also featured a wire to winner with fast qualifier Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico winning by 6.8509 seconds over Will Owen.

     Driving for Team Pelfrey, O’Ward made it look easy never really being challenged in the 29 lap race on the infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win for the first time in his two year stint in the Pro Mazda series.  I Jake Parsons, Garett Grist and Nico Jamin completed the top five in a race that went caution free.

     The final race of the day on the road course featured the cars of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series and just as the races that preceded it today the race went to the pole winner Ed Jones leading all the laps, who finished third in the 2015 series standings, driving for Team Carlin, which has aspirations of moving up the Verizon IndyCar series in the not too distant future.

      Jones, the fastest qualifier, hails from Dubai, UAE and finished 0.9501 seconds ahead of series rookie Santiago Urrutia of Montevideo, Uruguay in a car owned and fielded by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

      Rookie Dean Stoneman, started 6th and finished third in his Andretti Autosport entry while another rookie Felix Rosenqvist finished fourth and Zach Veach took fifth.