FONTANA, Calif. (Saturday Sept. 15, 2012) – Simon Pagenaud will start 20th tonight in his final race as a rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series – the MAV TV American Real 500.

 

Pagenaud qualified 15th on a hot afternoon in southern California Friday, but he joins 14 other drivers incurring grid penalties for unapproved engine changes in tonight’s race. He lines up next to next Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe in the 10th row for the 500-mile race.

 

Driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Pagenaud recorded a two-lap time of 1:07.5164 seconds at 213.282 mph around Auto Club Speedway’s 2-mile, D-shaped oval. When he made his run, the air temperature exceeded 100 degrees, which pushed the track temperature to more than 130 degrees.

 

Despite qualifying 15th, Pagenaud is looking forward to the second 500-mile race of 2012.

 

“The HP team made big improvements to the car from this morning to this afternoon,” said Pagenaud after qualifying. “We went quicker and it’s warmer. So, we made massive improvements. We are looking in the right direction. There is quite a bit of room for improvement, for sure, but I think we put our finger on what we needed.”

 

Pagenaud didn’t lose site of the fact tonight is only his second 500-mile race, and the first one – the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race – provided him up to two weeks of testing and practice. For the MAV TV 500, he will have just less than two hours of practice.

 

“It’s definitely a short amount of time, especially this morning when we had a session cut short by a lot of yellows,” said Pagenaud. “You have to find things quickly, which the HP team has been amazing at all season long.”

 

Marco Andretti, from Andretti Autosport, scored his second IndyCar pole of his career with his 2-lap time of 1:06.6455 seconds at 216.069 mph. He will be joined on the front row by Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who posted a time of 1:06.6487 seconds at 216.058 mph.

 

Qualifying third is the first of the four IZOD IndyCar Series Championship contenders. Penske Racing’s Will Power, who leads the championship, qualified third with a time of 1:06.6851 seconds at 215.940 mph. Power will start 13th after his grid penalty.

 

The surprise in qualifying was the effort of rookie Josef Newgarden and his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. The Nashville, Tenn., native produced a time 1:06.6918 seconds at 215.919 mph, which was fourth fastest out of the field of 26 cars. He will start 14th after his grid penalty.

 

Scott Dixon, who is third in the championship, rounded out the top five in qualifying with a time of 1:06.8553 seconds at 215.391 mph. Dixon will start 15th.

 

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is second in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship behind Power, qualified 17th with a time of 1:07.6778 seconds at 212.773 mph. Hunter-Reay will start 22nd.

 

The MAV TV American Real 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., will air live on NBC Sports Network, Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET. The race will also be live on the IMS Radio Network and on XM 94/Sirius 212.

 

DATE:                           Friday, Sept. 14, 2012

EVENT:                        MAV TV American Real 500

LOCATION:                Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (2-mile, D-shaped oval)

SERIES:                       IZOD IndyCar Series

PAGENAUD:              Qualified 15th, will start 20th (1:07.5164 seconds at 213.282 mph)

POLE WINNER:        Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport  (1:06.6455 seconds at 216.069 mph)