LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — With rain pelting the garage roof at Pocono Raceway and knowing he'd have to wait another day to race, Mikhail Aleshin just shrugged.
No big deal for the first Russian-born driver to win an IndyCar pole.
"Just one more day sitting on the pole," Aleshin said Sunday. "That's life. I just want to win this race. For me, it doesn't matter if it's going to be today, tomorrow, or next month. I'm still on the pole."
IndyCar officials acted quickly Sunday and postponed the race at the triangular 2.5-mile track until noon Monday because of persistent mid-afternoon rain. With no lights to allow for night racing and no quick end to the downpour in sight, drying the track in time to get in 101 of the 200 laps to make the race official was not possible. The race was scheduled to begin at 3:09 p.m. Sunday.
Aleshin turned a fast two-lap average of 220.454 mph on Saturday in his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to edge Josef Newgarden for the pole. It's the third time this season Newgarden has qualified second. He was on the front row at the Indy 500 and at Iowa, just missing the top spot Saturday with a two-lap average of 220.195 mph.
Takuma Sato will start third, followed by Helio Castroneves, Carlos Munoz, Aleshin's teammate James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter. Points leader Simon Pagenaud qualified 14th in windy conditions, while defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in morning practice and did not qualify.
Team Penske's Pagenaud and Power are 1-2 in the points standings, separated by 58 points, and sitting around another day wasn't exactly what they wanted to be doing.
"It's a back-to-back races coming up — three in a row," Power said. "It is what it is. Sit back and relax for the night and get ready to again tomorrow. Nothing really changes. When you wake up in the morning, you get a little bit nervous and butterflies."
Both Power and Pagenaud, who was hanging out with his Jack Russell Terrier, Norman, said they were disappointed for the fans.
— Norman Pagenaud (@NormanPagenaud) August 19, 2016
Only three races will remain in the IndyCar season after Pocono — Texas, Watkins Glen, and the season finale at Sonoma on Sept. 18, which is worth double points. Next week's Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway is a makeup from a race in mid-June that also was postponed by rain — after the drivers had completed only 71 of the scheduled 248 laps.
Newgarden is fourth in the standings and won't be able to race at Texas because he crashed out of the race. Starting on the front row at Pocono still gives him a glimmer of hope, though he trails Pagenaud by 120 points.
"We're taking it as it is," Newgarden said. "We're going to have a points loss there (Texas). We'll push forward from that."
Rain at Pocono Raceway three weeks ago pushed the finish of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race until Monday. Rookie Chris Buescher raced to his first Sprint Cup victory as continued bad weather shortened that event.
A blue sky and warm temperatures had settled in over Pocono before Sunday and the forecast for Monday was more sunshine.
AP Auto Racing Website: www.racing.ap.org
Follow Kekis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Greek1947