Driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car, Pagenaud found a healthy dose of speed on the short oval during qualifications with an average two-lap speed of 169.311 mph.
“We hit the hard limiter, which really hurt us in qualifications,” Pagenaud said. “The balance was nice in my car and it was awesome in Turns 1 and 2, then a bit loose in Turns 3 and 4. Overall it was a bit loose but it was good enough for me to stay full-throttle for both qualifying laps.”
Tristan Vautier earned a two-lap qualifying average of 169.215 mph in the No. 55 Coastal.com/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car. The IZOD IndyCar Series rookie was fourth fastest in the first practice session on Friday, but struggled in the second practice session before qualifications.
“We had an awesome pace in the first practice session this morning, and then we really struggled this afternoon,” Vautier said. “We were a bit uncertain of how we would qualify but it was a decent run and I was happy about the car. If someone would have told me we would have run that quick of a speed before qualifications I don’t think I would have believed them.”
With qualifying in the books, both drivers know their hardest work on the Milwaukee Mile is still ahead of them on race day.
“I enjoy this track so much because it honestly drives more like a road course than an oval,” Pagenaud said. “It’s all about finding the right balance here to have a strong car. It will be good to be up front tomorrow on race day because passing here is difficult with tire wear. It’s a challenge to set this car up for the race, and it’s going to be very important to have strong in and out laps.”
Vautier believes a well-handling car in traffic will be crucial to success in the 250-lap race.
“It’s going to be very difficult to have a car that works well in traffic here, and you’re going to need to be fast behind other drivers and run different lines,” Vautier said.
The IZOD IndyCar Series rookie will also look to gain valuable seat time on an oval track tomorrow as he learns the nuances of oval racing.
“I still have a lot to learn about long runs on ovals,” Vautier said. “I don’t set objectives for the races but I’ll be focusing on being clean the entire day on-track as well as in pit stops.”
Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport won the pole for Saturday’s Milwaukee IndyFest. The green flag will drop for the race at 4:40 p.m. ET, and broadcast coverage of the event will start at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. For all of the latest team updates, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.