“I think the Andretti guys were strong through the entire season,” Kanaan said. “If you look at the Indy 500 effort, I wasn’t expecting anything less. I don’t think I had it for him for the pole. But this race is a 400-mile race. I don’t think you can pick a favorite yet.”
It’s hard to bet against Andretti, who topped both practice sessions Thursday and has his eye on the winner’s circle.
The last time a team swept a three-car front row in an IndyCar event was the 1988 Indianapolis 500, with Penske Racing’s Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser.
“It does help. There’s cooperation there,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s like, `Go ahead, after you. No, after you.’ But that’s only for the first lap. After that, we get going.”
Andretti driver E.J. Viso was in position to qualify fourth until he slammed into the wall. He walked away from the accident.
Alex Tagliani also was unhurt after his car tagged the wall.
The return to Pocono is being celebrated as a nod to IndyCar’s history and tradition. Pocono’s three corners were designed in 1965 to model corners at Indianapolis, Milwaukee and now-defunct Trenton, and fans have always considered the track an important venue in open wheel racing.
With Pocono back on the schedule, IndyCar resurrected the “Triple Crown” challenge, a three-race competition in 2013 for $1 million to the driver that wins the Indianapolis 500, the 400-miler at Pocono and the season finale at Fontana. A driver who wins two of the three can win a $250,000 bonus from promotion sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka.
IndyCar ran a “Triple Crown” at Indianapolis, Pocono and Ontario from 1971-1980 and from 1981-1989 at Indy, Pocono and Michigan. Only Unser won all three races in a single season, in 1978.
Kanaan is the only driver eligible to win $1 million dollars after his breakthrough race at Indy. He knows sweeping the three races won’t be easy.
“My boss tells me, all the time, that’s why I get paid the big bucks,” Kanaan said.
Pocono CEO and president Brandon Igdalsky said after qualifying that ticket sales were solid for the holiday weekend race and there was a strong turnout of fans who don’t attend the track’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
“I was extremely impressed with the amount of people that came to watch us today,” Kanaan said. “I’ve always heard good things about this place and I’m excited about it.”