Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier will echo the congested Southern California traffic near Auto Club Speedway and use every lane available to fight their way to the front of the MAV TV American Real 500 after qualifying 16th and 20th, respectively.
Pagenaud posted a two-lap average qualifying speed of 216.447 mph (01:06.5290) to claim the 16th starting spot.
“My race car is really good,” Pagenaud said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t bring the qualifying pace today but we can’t change that now. I felt very comfortable in the race trim in practice this morning, so we’ll be ready to move up through the pack tomorrow.”
The 2-mile, D-shaped oval at Auto Club Speedway is Pagenaud’s favorite oval on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, and he will have several factors to manage throughout the race.
“It could certainly be a fuel strategy race and go our way, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do out there,” Pagenaud said. “This is such a fun track with all of the different lanes you can use as a driver. You have to protect your tires, use your tools and be very smart.”
The second-year IndyCar driver is third in the series championship with 491 points, 30 points behind second-place driver Helio Castroneves. It is mathematically possible for the Frenchman to snag second position from Castroneves and Team Penske.
“Helio (Castroneves) seems pretty strong to be honest, but I’m going to try all the way until the last lap of the MAV TV American Real 500,” Pagenaud said. “I’ll fight as hard as I can to either protect third or go for second.”
Tristan Vautier, driving the No. 55 Angie’s List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, qualified 20th with a 2-lap average qualifying speed of 215.207 mph (01:06.9124).
“We didn’t get as many practice laps as we wanted this morning, and we definitely had more speed than we showed this afternoon in qualifying,” Vautier said. “I’m disappointed in our qualifying effort because I know we had more in our Angie’s List car.”
Vautier, who has wrapped up Rookie of the Year honors in his first year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, is quickly learning the nuances of driving an IndyCar around the 2-mile oval.
“There’s a lot to learn on this track with the different lanes you can use and I’m trying to catch up with everyone,” he said. “It’s hard to predict what the race will be like tomorrow, but I know we’ll have a good race car for tomorrow night.”
Broadcast coverage of the MAVTV American Real 500 at Auto Club Speedway begins at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 19. For the latest team updates from the track follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.