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Helio Castro Neves wrested the forty fifth pole of his decades long IndyCar career away from his team mate Simon Pagenaud Saturday at Pocono Raceway. He did so at over 220 miles per hour and then proceeded to hoot and giggle girlishly in the post qualifications interview. Team Penske swept the top three spots with “Mad” Will Power on the inside of row two in tomorrow’s five hundred mile race, while CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden and championship contender Graham Rahal – the quickest Honda – round out the top five.
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Fourth Penske entry and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya encountered a problem on his first lap, drifted up the track and lifted off the throttle. He qualified poorly as a result, starting nineteenth. When asked about his bobble in an interview Montoya replied, “It’s racing.” A big thanks to Paul Tracy, who guaranteed Montoya would be a contender tomorrow thereby jinxing him utterly. This along with Juan’s screw up in quals makes our prediction look better and better. Curiously, JPM declined interviews all day before qualifications, though not with IRR. We didn’t request one.
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Charlie Kimball who’d been quickest in practice spun and crashed during his qualifying run getting air borne, damaging the catch fence and causing a lengthy delay for repairs. He hit the fence so friggin’ hard he even bent a pole! It was a scary wreck but happily Charlie emerged unscathed, although Ganassi‘s car was totaled.
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James Jakes had a fire on board as he entered the pits at the end of his run, though it was quickly extinguished and wasn’t nearly as hot as Megan Williams, his WAG. Birthday boy Tristian Vautier who turned twenty six today qualified well for Dale Coyne, luckily winding up thirteenth. Takuma Sato made a decent showing as well – he’ll start ninth tomorrow for the ailing AJ Foyt. Foyt’s facing multiple surgeries due a staph infection in a replaced knee that’s soon to be re-replaced.
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A few thoughts on NBCSN’s extended coverage, which was appreciated and adequate as usual. We ribbed Kevin Lee on Twitter that the “B team” was in charge today, but he did a serviceable job in the booth along with PT, though Tracy’s Penske love is getting tiresome. The stunning Katie Hargitt mistakenly said TK was attempting to be the first driver to win four five hundred mile races – she left out the on different tracks part – and we let her hear about it, pointing out AJ, Unser, etc. and their Indy 500 wins. She Tweeted back the missing phrase, we favorited and everything’s cool.
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We’ll wrap up with some pleasantries. In interviews with Robin Miller, a heavily bearded “Amish” James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly both divulged some good news. The Mayor plans to test his IndyCar next month, marking a return to racing after his horrific practice crash at Indy. Hoosier Conor Daly said “I think so, man” when Robin asked him about a ride for next year, saying his chances were getting “better.” Good for them both, as they deserve some positive news.
Race: Sunday, 1:00 PM CT, NBCSN