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Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato continued his prowess on IndyCar Series superspeedways, capturing the pole position today for the Pocono race.

Taking the track as the final qualifier – and moments after watching Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay crash on his qualifying attempt – Sato sizzled around the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway oval at 219.639 mph to earn his second pole position this season and seventh of his eight-year Verizon IndyCar Series career.

Sato will lead the 22-car field to the green flag in Sunday’s 200-lap event, the 14th of 17 races on the 2017 schedule.

“I was a little bit worried about Ryan, but I got a good feeling on that warmup lap and I couldn’t believe it,” said Sato, who became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 in May following a thrilling late-lap duel with Helio Castroneves.

“Obviously, the engineers and guys did an incredible job. What an incredible achievement for Andretti Autosport.”

Sato’s late heroics bounced Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud from pole honors. The reigning series champion, driving the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, averaged 219.395 mph on his run to earn a front-row starting position for the second time in three races.

Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan locked up the second row in qualifying. Kimball was third in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda (219.369 mph), with Kanaan fourth in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda (219.012 mph).

Points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske qualified 14th in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet (217.235 mph).

Hunter-Reay is among three drivers unable to complete qualifications attempts who will start from the rear of the grid. Driving the No. 28 DHL Honda, Hunter-Reay spun exiting Turn 3 on his warmup lap, with the left side of the car making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier before the car slid down the track and made secondary contact with the inside wall on the front straight.

Hunter-Reay limped to the INDYCAR medical response vehicle. After being evaluated at the track’s infield care center by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR edical director, Hunter-Reay was transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest for further evaluation.

Helio Castroneves, second in the championship heading into the weekend, lost control of his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet heading into Turn 1 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt. The left side of the car made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier.

Castroneves, seven points behind teammate Josef Newgarden for the points lead, was uninjured but will be forced to start 20th in the 22-car field as he chases his first Indy car championship in his 20th season.

Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter crashed in morning practice. The No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet crew was unable to repair the car in time to take its place in the qualifying technical inspection line, so Carpenter did not make an attempt. He will start last in Sunday’s race.


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IndyCar Series driver Sebastien Bourdais has been cleared to resume driving by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, INDYCAR medical director, following his recovery from injuries sustained in a crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifications.

Billows said the 38-year-old Frenchman was evaluated by INDYCAR orthopedic consultant Dr. Kevin Scheid on Tuesday and was given clearance to fully return to racing activities.

Bourdais was involved in a crash during an Indianapolis 500 qualifying attempt on May 20. The crash left the four-time Indy car champion with fractures in his hip and pelvis.

He returned to a car for a medical evaluation test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 31.

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Ed Carpenter is regarded as an oval track expert in the IndyCar Series, but the team owner/driver faces an uphill climb this afternoon at Pocono Raceway.

Driving the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for the team bearing his name, Carpenter crashed late this morning in the only practice session before single-car qualifying.

The back end of Carpenter’s car stepped out as he was exiting Turn 3, it did a 180-degree spin and made solid contact with the SAFER Barrier.

Carpenter emerged unharmed but the car sustained significant left-side damage, leaving the No. 20 crew little more than three hours to make repairs. Carpenter drew the 13th qualifying position in the 22-car order.

“The car had felt pretty good,” Carpenter said. “Graham (Rahal) was coming in the pits in front of me and slowing up. I don’t know, I maybe lifted a little bit for him slowing down to keep the gap and it may have shifted the balance.

“Frustrating, not the start that we wanted for the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet but we’ll just have to rebound. It’s early in the weekend and we can recover from it.”

Carpenter hadn’t had time to assess the repairs necessary but knew it would be extensive.

“It wasn’t good,” he said of the damage. “It got the whole left side. It will be underwing, suspension. The real question with hits like that is if it gets the engine or gearbox. We’ll find out.”

Andretti Autosport drivers dominated the top of the speed chart in the practice that was also interrupted when Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones spun and made light contact with the front of his No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda in Turn 2.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2015 Pocono race winner, was fastest in the practice with a lap of 219.268 mph (41.0456 seconds) in the No. 28 DHL Honda out of the Andretti stable. Hunter-Reay’s teammates – Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi – finished fourth, sixth and seventh, respectively, as Honda drivers locked down six of the first seven spots.

“First time back in a year; we didn’t test here this year,” Hunter-Reay said. “Always great to be back at Pocono, but we’re just trying to get a feel for the new tire compound and the track after a hard winter, as they always have here. The bumps are a little bit different, things are a bit different, so it’s just a re-acclimation session.

“You have everybody getting ready for qualifying so you have everybody on completely different levels of downforce. It’s really tough to tell where you stand.”

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud was the lone Chevrolet driver near the top of the chart, second fastest at 219.211 mph in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Tony Kanaan was third in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda at 219.160 mph.

Josef Newgarden, who took the 2017 points lead on back-to-back wins in the last two races, was 20th of the 22 cars that turned laps. His fastest circuit on the 2.5-mile triangular oval was 214.778 mph in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet.

Newgarden leads teammate Helio Castroneves by seven points in the championship, with Scott Dixon eight points back. Castroneves was ninth fastest in practice in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet; Dixon was fifth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

The pole winner will be determined by the fastest cumulative time over two laps in this afternoon’s qualifying session. Dixon drew the first spot in the qualifying order. Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Sato drew the final three positions.


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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that the 27-year-old Colombian will race its No. 7 Lucas Oil-sponsored Indy car in the IndyCar Series events at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park alongside James Hinchcliffe.

Saavedra, who is racing in his seventh season as an Indy car driver, previously raced for the team this season at Toronto, finishing 11th. He also raced in the Indianapolis 500 with Juncos Racing.

“I am very excited to be back with the SPM organization,” Saavedra said. “It's another late call to jump in, but I take it with pride after a promising start of our relationship in Toronto. Looking forward to a challenging event as the ‘Tricky Triangle’ can be, and support (James) Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of championship points. I'm thankful to my sponsors and my continued relationship with AFS Inc.”

This Aug. 20 ABC Supply 500 will mark Saavedra’s third start at Pocono but his first oval as a member of SPM. He will again be paired with race engineer Blair Perschbacher, with whom Saavedra formed a race-winning combination in Indy Lights.

“Delighted to have Sebastian back with the SPM team following what was a very encouraging performance at the Toronto event,” said Piers Phillips, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ general manager. “He is experienced and competent, and I have no doubt he will contribute to the overall performance of the team. We’re heading to Pocono full of confidence as a team and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing Sebastian and James at the front of the pack.”

The No. 7 Lucas Oil Honda will highlight Saavedra’s longtime partner AFS Racing at both Pocono and the Aug. 27 Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

 “It’s great to team up with (team co-owner) Sam (Schmidt) after the great rivalry we had in the (Indy) Lights championship,” said Gary Peterson, president and CEO of AFS Inc. “After Sebastian’s positive performance in Toronto, the next two events will be an opportunity to show his strength on ovals and that he is a great candidate for the 2018 season with SPM.”