There's something about the Andretti family and being fast for 500-mile races. Marco Andretti earned the pole for tomorrow night's MAVTV 500 in Fontana with a two-lap average of 216.069 mph in his No. 26 RC Cola Chevy.
It was Andretti's second career pole as his lone other top qualifying effort came all the way back in 2008 at Milwaukee. Andretti was fast in Indy but couldn't capitalize on pole day and wound up fourth. On Friday, Andretti had the quickest first lap as the only wheelman to top the 217 mph bracket at 217.934 mph, but ran the slowest second lap out of the 10 with a speed of 214.235. He can thank that top lap for giving him enough for the pole.
Starting alongside Andretti is Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who is riding a late-season hot streak. The Indianapolis 500 pole winner was the only other driver to average a speed over 216. Briscoe's two-lap speed was 216.058 mph in the No. 2 Chevy. The front row spot is Briscoe's third in the last five races as he's been on a terror at the end of the season. He will definitely be a factor tomorrow night. Fittingly too an Andretti and Penske car is going for the title tomorrow night, and both owners have a car on the front row besides than the two contenders.
Points leader Will Power was third quickest with a two-lap average of 215.940 mph in his No. 12 Verizon Wireless Chevy. Unfortunately, Power will not keep the spot as he's one of 14 teams that changed an engine this weekend and was assessed at 10-spot grid penalty. Power will instead start 13th Saturday night.
Like Power, fourth quickest Josef Newgarden will give up his second row spot for a 10 position grid penalty for an engine change. The rookie was fourth quickest in his first race back after missing Baltimore Labor Day weekend with a broken finger from a hard wreck at Sonoma. Newgarden's two-lap average was 215.919 mph and he will start 14th now.
One of the benefeciaries of the grid penalties was Scott Dixon as he was fifth quickest in the session, but will now start third. Dixon turned a two-lap average of 215.391 mph in his No. 9 Target Honda. He hopes he can get the same engine speed and durability as he did at Indianapolis and Texas.
Alex Tagliani qualified sixth, but changed his engine and will go back to 16th, so that will move Tony Kanaan and J.R. Hildebrand, who qualified seventh and eighth, up to fourth and fifth respectively. Ed Carpenter was ninth quickest and will move up to sixth on the grid tomorrow, giving Chevrolet five of the top six starting positions.
The biggest movers from the grid penalties will start 7th-12th as Rubens Barrichello, Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, Dario Franchitti, Sebastian Saveedra, and E.J. Viso will round out those positions. Those six didn't need an engine change and moved up from the 13th, 14th, 18th, 19th, 21st, and 22nd qualifying positions, respectively. The only other car that didn't change an engine this weekend, James Jakes, was the slowest of the 24 cars to make an attempt today and will start 16th.
Two drivers, Justin Wilson and Simona de Silvestro, didn't make an effort at qualifying and will start 25th and 26th. Wilson crashed in the practice session earlier in the day on Friday and the team didn't get the car fixed before the qualifying session. Simona's team was changing her engine and didn't get done in time either.
The other title contender Ryan Hunter-Reay was a disappointing 17th quickest today and with his engine change will start 22nd tomorrow. He will have to come a long way, but luckily for Hunter-Reay it's a very long race.
Tune into NBC Sports Network at 8:00 p.m. for Saturday night's IZOD IndyCar season finale, the MAVTV 500 from Fontana.
1. 26 Marco Andretti
2. 2 Ryan Briscoe
3. 9 Scott Dixon
4. 11 Tony Kanaan
5. 4 J.R. Hildebrand
6. 20 Ed Carpenter
7. 8 Rubens Barrichello R
8. 6 Katherine Legge R
9. 22 Oriol Servia
10. 10 Dario Franchitti
11. 17 Sebastian Saveedra
12. 5 E.J. Viso
13. 12 Will Power
14. 67 Josef Newgarden R
15. 19 James Jakes
16. 98 Alex Tagliani
17. 3 Helio Castroneves
18. 38 Graham Rahal
19. 27 James Hinchcliffe
20. 77 Simon Pagenaud R
21. 15 Takuma Sato
22. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay
23. 83 Charlie Kimball
24. 14 Wade Cunningham R
25. 18 Justin Wilson
26. 78 Simona de Silvestro
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