INDIANAPOLIS — Simon Pagenaud keeps finding new ways to impress his team owner.
At the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 11, he rallied in the rain on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to end a 21-race drought without a victory. On Sunday, he put Roger Penske back in pole position for the Indianapolis 500 — and he may not be finished.
Pagenaud traded high-fives and pumped his fist along pit row after becoming the first French driver in a century to earn the pole for the Indy 500. He had a four-lap qualifying average of 229.992 mph to edge Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot and give Chevrolet a clean sweep of the front row for next Sunday's edition of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
"Watching him run in that road race, in the water, I've never seen a run like that in my life," Penske said after the team captured its 266th pole in IndyCar Series competition. "And then to come out here and win the pole? We've got great momentum."
The timing couldn't be better for Pagenaud, either. With his contract expiring at the end of this season and questions lingering about his future, the 2016 series champion has thrived this month on IndyCar's biggest stage, with Sunday's pole his first since July 2017.
Pagenaud was the only driver in the nine-car pole shootout to top 230 mph on three of the four laps, and he knocked a three-time Indy 500 pole winner out of the top spot. Carpenter wound up second with an average of 229.889. Pigot, who also drives for Ed Carpenter Racing, will start third after averaging 229.826.
"This is truly what Team Penske does," the 35-year-old Pagenaud said. "They give us the best equipment. Quite frankly, (my driving is) at the very, very end of what made this possible. I'm just very honored to drive this No.22 Chevy Menards, which obviously was very incredible today."
Penske teammates Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner, and Josef Newgarden, the 2017 series champion, didn't record a single lap on the 2.5-mile oval over 229 mph. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, the other Penske driver who will compete in the Indy 500, didn't even make the shootout.
Pagenaud, though, has positioned himself perfectly to extend the team's record to 18 Indy 500 wins as the 82-year-old Penske celebrates the 50th anniversary of his first trip to Indy as a team owner.
The only real competition in qualifying came from Carpenter's three-car contingent, which included Ed Jones of Dubai landing in the No. 4 starting spot.
Colton Herta, an American rookie who drives for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, was the top Honda-powered driver at fifth with a speed of 229.086. France's Sebastien Bourdais was seventh at 228.621 and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi was ninth at 228.247.
Eliminated from the field in qualifying Sunday were Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton and Patricio O'Ward.
The failure of Alonso to make the field will go down as one of the biggest failures in Indy 500 history. A two-time Formula One series champion who was driving for McLaren, Alonso was bumped in the fight for the final spot by 23-year-old Kyle Kaiser of tiny Juncos Racing.