Mikhail Aleshin speaking with the media after his pole winning run for the ABC Supply 500
NTT IndyCar Series

Aleshin becomes first Russian born driver to win a Verizon IndyCar Series Pole

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: Jared DePouw

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016Pocono/Aleshin-Post-Qualify.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Jared DePouw”}Mikhail Aleshin speaking with the media after his pole winning run for the ABC Supply 500{/boxplus}

Mikhail Aleshin made Indy car history, becoming the first Russian driver to win a pole position in Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver averaged 220.445 mph over two laps in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda to collect his first pole in his 31st career Verizon IndyCar Series start. Aleshin will lead the field to the green flag for the 200-lap marathon on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” oval in what will be the 13th race to be completed on the 16-race schedule (3 p.m. ET Sunday, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

“It’s obviously very difficult to explain what I feel now,” the reserved 29-year-old from Moscow said. “It’s a lot of emotions definitely. It’s my first pole in INDYCAR and I am so happy to bring the No. 7 SMP Racing car up there.

“The team did an amazing job. We had a couple of moments in Turn 1, but I decided to keep it flat and see what would happen. (Hitting) the wall didn’t happen, but pole position happened. Amazing.”

Aleshin led a contingent of the top five qualifiers representing five teams. Also, in fitting with the ongoing 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, today’s top six qualifiers hail from six nations. American Josef Newgarden, currently fourth in the point standings, qualified second at 220.195 mph in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing. It continued strong showings for Newgarden on superspeedway ovals in 2016. He qualified and finished third at the 100th Indianapolis 500 in May and qualified fifth and was running up front at the rain-suspended Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in June when he was involved in a crash. Newgarden believed he could have won the pole today had he not asked for a setup change just before qualifying.

“I think where we rolled out with would have been enough,” Newgarden said. “It’s my fault that we changed it. I’m disappointed about that. You always want the pole. We have a great chemistry and group with our people, but sometimes I mess up.

“Congrats to Mikhail, great job by him. We didn’t have enough today, but tomorrow is what counts.”

Takuma Sato will start third in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (220.067) – the best qualifying effort for the Japanese driver since he won the pole for the second Chevrolet Dual in Detroit race in 2014. Brazil’s Helio Castroneves will start next to Sato in Row 2 after logging two laps at an average of 219.781 mph in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

“Very, very happy about our qualifying run,” Sato said. “We had a very good baseline car. We tested here a couple weeks ago, which helped massively, and we gained a good understanding for the strong superspeedway package that Honda worked so hard on and it looks like we have a pretty strong car.”

Row 3 will consist of Colombia’s Carloz Munoz in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (219.647) and Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, Aleshin’s teammate in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (219.463). Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Simon Pagenaud qualified 14th in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (217.721). Pagenaud holds a 58-point lead over teammate Will Power, who qualified eighth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (218.617). Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won the 2015 ABC Supply 500, was uninjured in a crash during morning practice but his car – the same chassis that won the 2014 Indianapolis 500 – could not be repaired in time to make a qualifying attempt. Hunter-Reay will start the race in 22nd position in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. Two other drivers – Charlie Kimball and Juan Pablo Montoya – also crashed in morning practice but were able to make qualifying attempts. Montoya, the 2014 Pocono winner, will start 15th in the No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet and Kimball 16th in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevy.

 

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.

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