SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA/No.17 KV AFS Racing Chevrolet got his first-ever Verizon IndyCar pole position Friday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course. His lap was 1:23.8822/104.675 mph. Saavedra possibly was as surprised as was everyone else at his unexpected good fortune, courtesy of faster laps being denied to RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.28 Andretti Autosport Honda after he caused a Red Flag when he spun and slowly whacked his right rear into the wall past Turn 14.
Saavedra said getting the pole position ““Man I’m telling you it was crazy at first because we didn’t know what to expect from the track. If it was going to be wet or it was going to be dry. As soon as it rained, I love the rain, so we made a huge loop this morning and the whole session was just weird. It would start to rain then it would go dry. Then it was super dry then it was super wet, I loved it. Inside my helmet I had a big smile. It’s a matter of showing yourself. This year is so competitive, driving side by side with Power (Will Power) or Dixon (Scott Dixon), the times are very close. I have more confidence, huge, going into the Indy 500. As for rain tomorrow, I enjoy rain very much.”
Starting next to Saavedra on the front row Saturday afternoon will be Rookie JACK HAWKSWORTH/No.98 BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian Honda. That too was a surprise.
SIMON PAGENAUD/No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda has the (new) qualifying track record on the reconfigured IMS road course with a lap of 1:09.6716, turned in the first segment of the first qualifying session. He starts fourth behind the ill-fated RHR.
Fifth and sixth are WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske Chevrolet and SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
IndyCar Qualifying was a mixed bag of weather. The first session was misty and damp, the second session was dry, and the third session was lightly rainy with rooster tails. The Firestone Fast Six got off to a late start due to a Red Flag instead of green, for track inspection after the rain came back. There was standing water in places, especially Turns One and Eleven. In between the sun would tease, briefly attempting to peek through, before coming out on the front straight. So then Fast Fix commenced and was immediately Red Flagged for rain. It ended on another Red Flag after RHR hit the wall.
In the Second Group of qualifying Russian Rookie MIKHAIL ALESHIN/No.7 SMP Racing Honda make the top six and then be penalized his two fastest laps, dropping him back on the grid. That allowed GRAHAM RAHAL/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda go from the Not group to the Top Six group in his segment. Aleshin was penalized for “qualifying interference” with SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/No.11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet. Rahal will start twelfth and Aleshin last.
Hawksworth – “After the sweepers went out, the track was pretty good. Not having a teammate to share with, I turn to Bryan (BRYAN HERTA, team owner and former driver) who is always there, giving advice.”
Power – “I went into the grass in practice, but qualifying was good. I had the same idea as Dixon, run old tires first, and switch to red; then the red flag came out and ruined that strategy.”
RHR – Water was an issue in that last corner, Turn 14, every lap/ It’s unfortunate. There was no SAFER barrier where I hit. In the wet you’re always going for it. There’s a fine line. My problem was right rear only, the car is salvageable, and the crew will be able to fix it. I just whacked the right rear. It’s the putting the last details back together.” Hunter-Reay praised Saavedra’s qualifying. He’s changed teams every year, and he did a great job on his last two laps.”
Pagenaud – I’ve been with the same team for the past three years, so now we’re fine tuning the details.” Always with the fine French dry humor, and relating back to the notion that he and Power wouldn’t be going on vacation together soon after a LBGP on-track incident, Pagenaud’s take on the Aleshin penalty – “What I know is him and Sebastien Bourdais are becoming best friends.”
Power – When asked about the difference between pole for the IMS road course and the oval, he joked “The oval pays a lot more for pole than road course pole. (But seriously folks) Any pole a big deal. Being on pole puts a bit of pressure on you for the race.”
Dixon – “The conditions were changing. Standing water in Turns One and Eleven was an issue. The water disbursed rather quickly. It was not too horrible on track once it was swept and cleaned up and the water dissipated. It wasn’t too bad. Still, I’m in the Fast Six and hopefully a smooth race tomorrow.”
Saturday’s race starts 3:30pm local time and airs live on ABC TV.