Team Penske swept the top three qualifying spots for the IndyCar season finale Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Australian Will Power won the pole position for the MAVTV 500 on Friday with a two-lap average speed of 220.775 mph at the two-mile oval. He was followed by Helio Castroneves at 219.677 mph and A.J. Allmendinger at 218.894 mph.
Castroneves trails Scott Dixon by 25 points in the championship battle, and Dixon -- who qualified seventh -- needs only to finish fifth or better to clinch the title, regardless of where Castroneves finishes.
However, the teams for Dixon and Castroneves changed their cars' engines before arriving in Fontana, incurring a penalty of 10 starting spots. So Castroneves would start 12th and Dixon would start 17th, assuming no other teams make engine changes.
"It's a 500-mile race," said Dixon, who drives for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. "For us it was more paramount to change the engine" than avoid the penalty.
Allmendinger, who plans to race in NASCAR full time next year, also has open-wheel racing experience. He was tapped by Penske only for this race to join Power in trying to bolster Castroneves' chances of catching Dixon for the title.
Power and Allmendinger, for instance, could make it easy for Castroneves to pass them to gain points and, conversely, try to make it more difficult for Dixon to pass.
Or, "if that means just sitting behind [Castroneves] all day, that's fine," Power said. "It's about the team."
"I hope it's an advantage," Castroneves said after qualifying. "But come on, Scott and Ganassi, [it's] not the first-time rodeo for them. They know what they need to do."
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