LONG POND, Pa. – Helio Castroneves came up short of capturing his second consecutive Pocono Raceway pole earlier in the day, but the Team Penske driver proved his pace in final practice for the ABC Supply 500.
The driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet set fast lap in the 30-minute session late this afternoon with a lap of 218.824 mph (41.1290 seconds). Castroneves, who will start fourth in Sunday’s 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile triangular oval, was followed by Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Honda, 218.043 mph) and points leader Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 217.548).
“The Hitachi Chevy was really good,” Castroneves said. “The car was handling well. I’m very happy. The track is getting better and suiting more our car. I’m excited for the 500, we’ve just got to put ourselves in a good situation to win this race.”
KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon were both relieved to end the session in the top five after dismal qualifying runs. Bourdais (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet, 217.292) was fourth quick, followed by Dixon (No. 9 Target Chevy, 217.194), showing much-needed speed after qualifying 18th and 19th, respectively, for the race.
Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth fastest in the No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Chevy (217.148 mph) and posted the fastest lap of the session without an aerodynamic tow from cars in front of him (216.303). But the 2014 Pocono winner and two-time Indy 500 champion wasn’t happy with the car that was pieced together for qualifying after he crashed his primary in morning practice.
“The car has really good speed, it’s just terrible in traffic,” said Montoya, who will start the race 15th. “We’re going to look at it and make some changes. I’m 30 car lengths behind somebody and I’m already struggling, I can’t close the gap at all.
“At Indy, we had the same issue and we went really aggressive, and it didn’t work, either (crashing out in last place). We’ve got to make sure we’re there at the end, but we’ve got to figure out where we’re missing.”
Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda) won his first career Verizon P1 Award earlier in the day and finished the 30-minute session – which ran without incident – seventh quick at 216.877 mph.
Defending Pocono winner Ryan Hunter-Reay turned his first laps in the backup Andretti Autosport No. 28 DHL Honda after also crashing in the morning and sitting out qualifying. Still sore from the impact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion used the final practice to sort out the car.
“We’re stepping through a completely new car. New components, new wings, new underwings, so it was a process of out (onto the track), in (to pit), out, in – just to try to get the balance right,” Hunter-Reay said. “We have some issues here that we didn’t have here at the (Aug. 4) test. On the other hand, being out there for such a short amount of time, it was decent.
“We’ll see. It’s a long race. Good thing it is.”
Coverage of the ABC Supply 500 begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The 200-lap race stands to be the 13th race of 16 to be completed on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. Pagenaud holds a 58-point lead over Will Power entering the race.