Fontana, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Helio Castroneves won the pole position and earned a bonus point, while his Team Penske teammate and championship leader, Will Power, qualified 21st for Saturday night's IndyCar Series season-ending race at Auto Club Speedway.
Castroneves posted a two-lap average speed of 218.540 mph during Friday's qualifying for the MAVTV 500. The 39 year-old Brazilian claimed his third pole of the season and the 41st of his Indy car career, breaking a tie with Rick Mears for fourth on the all-time pole winners list.
It was the third time Castroneves won the pole at this two-mile oval in Southern California. He started first here in the 2002 and '03 races.
With the pole win, Castroneves moved from 51 points to 50 behind Power in the battle for the IndyCar championship. Neither driver has yet to win a title in the series.
"It ain't over. It's just beginning," Castroneves said. "Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles and finish where we started."
Power's qualifying finish at Fontana was a season-low for him, with his two- lap average clocked at 212.604 mph. Last year, he earned the pole here with a record average speed of 220.775 mph. Power is the defending winner of this race.
"With the starting position, I'd rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early on," Power said. "It's obviously all about the race. It's very long, and we'll be racing in different conditions."
Earlier this month, Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after he started last in the 22-car field.
If Power finishes sixth or better in this race, he will clinch the series title, regardless of Castroneves or Pagenaud's performances.
This 500-mile event is the third and final leg in IndyCar's "Triple Crown" this season, and it awards double points. Already having won the pole, if Castroneves were to lead the most laps and win the race then he would earn a total of 104 points.
Simon Pagenaud, the only other driver who remains eligible for the title, qualified 13th in his Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing car. Pagenaud trails Power by 81 points.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who is Castroneves and Power's teammate, qualified second with an average of 217.261 mph. Josef Newgarden placed his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry on the outside of row one (217.600 mph). This race will feature a three-wide start.
Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, the 2013 IndyCar champion and last weekend's race winner in Sonoma, California, and Charlie Kimball will start from the second row.
Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin, a rookie this season, and Ryan Hunter-Reay will roll off from row three.