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Montoya wins 1st IndyCar pole at Pocono Raceway

LONG POND, Pennsylvania -- Juan Pablo Montoya had a two-lap average of 360.27 kph (223.871 mph) at Pocono Raceway for his first IndyCar Series pole position on Saturday.

Driving for Team Penske in his open-wheel return after seven years in NASCAR, the Colombian knocked off Penske teammate Will Power on the final qualifying run.

“I feel at home in the car now,” he said.

Montoya won a Pocono pole in NASCAR in August 2012. He also won 14 open-wheel poles in CART in 1999-2000.

Carlos Munoz joined Montoya and points leader Power on the front row. Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe completed the second row.

Montoya had the good fortune of going out last after one driver after another took a turn atop the leaderboard. Helio Castroneves, Andretti, Sato and Power all set the one-lap track record and held the provisional pole. Montoya snagged it when it counted.

Power and Castroneves are 1-2 in the standings for Roger Penske. Montoya is fifth and climbing fast after three straight top 10s.

“He's brought a lot of good stuff to the team, from the very beginning, actually,” Power said. “The experience of all three of us is really helping push the cars in the right direction. The beauty about driving for Penske is that you've got the resources to develop what you want.”

Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will start ninth. Hunter-Reay is the only driver who can win the open-wheel series' Triple Crown. Pocono and Fontana join the Indianapolis 500 as the three races that use three-wide starts, run 500 miles and award double points.

Defending Pocono winner Scott Dixon will start 15th.

The reigning series champion has a reversal of fortune over the final races. He's stuck well behind Power in ninth in the standings. Dixon has only one podium finish and was 19th and 18th in last weekend's Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader.

Time is running short for Dixon to make a serious push at a fourth career IndyCar championship.

“We've got to go for race wins,” Dixon said after qualifying. “There's no other way of looking at it.”

Dixon might find Pocono Raceway as the perfect track to ignite a winning streak — he has done it before. Dixon was seventh in the standings last season headed into Pocono when he took the checkered flag as part of a Ganassi podium sweep. He swept the doubleheader at Toronto and his three-race winning streak catapulted him into championship contention. He'd win again at Houston and clinched his third title at Fontana.

“Right now, we're not as comfortable as we should be,” he said. “We've probably been a little bit aggressive in some areas. A lot of mistakes. Even I've made some mistakes.

“That's racing. It goes your way sometimes and sometimes it doesn't.”

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