Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda played spoiler for the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Contenders by taking the Verizon Pole Position at Sonoma Raceway Saturday afternoon. His fast lap was 1:17.6277/110.605 mph. None of the contenders gained a pole point, so all still have the same points spread going into Sunday’s race.
This was RHR’s first pole position since Long Beach in 2014, and his seventh career pole. For Andretti Autosport, it was Pole 39 in IndyCar competition, and the first pole at Sonoma Raceway since Dario Franchitti in 2007.
Hunter-Reay said “We were trying to figure out what tires to go with at the last minute. It’s nice to finally get that pole at Sonoma. I’ve been knocking on that door for a long while. I’m certainly doing my part to help (teammate) Rossi – keeping Dixon from the pole. Big focus trying to win this thing tomorrow. Finished second and third here in the past. Would love to get that big bottle of red wine. That’s the ultimate goal for us right now. We’ll be concentrating on that.”
Second was Contender Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He looked about to get a pole point, when he pushed his limits too far in Turn 7 and drove wide on his last lap. RHR was also on his flyer lap and took the pole on that lap which was in progress after the Checkered Flag flew. Dion said “This is a big race for us, obviously. Frustrating, thought we had the pole there. I think front row is a good start. Huge driver error there. Just needed to get through a right and left, it would have been looking pretty decent. I’m happy how we’ve been this weekend. Obviously tomorrow is what really counts. It was nice to improve our speed as a team in this scenario. Just came up short. Maybe another driver in that car would have got it on the pole.”
Third was Contender Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He said “Yeah, it (third) was okay. Disappointed with third. I think we had a little bit more to challenge for the pole. We just fell short. Now we have to work on our race car and try to capitalize for tomorrow.
“I was most excited for the Fast Six. I thought that would be where we would shine the most. Third is not always what you want. I mean, if you’re in the Fast Six, you hope to get the pole. I think we had some potential on it. We were on a pretty good lap. Rossi just layered Turn Nine with dust. We lost some time. I think we were tight on Hunter-Reay’s time. A low six, high five. I think Dixon was on a five at one point, too. You don’t know what it would have been. It wasn’t enough.”
Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Autosport Honda was fourth, his first Fast Six, and his best qualifying position since his pole at Detroit in June – in group qualifying, not Fast Six. Andretti won the 2006 Sonoma IndyCar race. He said “”I think this U.S. Concrete team did a really good job with staying with the track. We learned a really tough lesson on (Firestone alternate red tires) yesterday; we were 16th. We were able to get within a tenth-and-a-half, but that’s not good enough. When (Scott) Dixon sent it off (during the Firestone Fast Six), I thought that was my shot at pole because he would’ve lost his laps, but that wasn’t in the cards. Luckily Ryan (Hunter-Reay) stole the point from (Dixon).”
O’Ward was the top Rookie. This was the first run in the Fast Six for him, in his first-ever IndyCar start, and a first for his team. He was fifth fastest despite his wild ride in Turn 2. “I was just trying to find the limit of the tire, I guess. I went a little deep. I locked up I think front left. When you do that, you just overshoot a little bit.”
Otherwise, O’Ward was like a kid about making Fast Six. “It’s so cool. I honestly don’t know what to think about it . When I saw that I moved into the Fast Six, I thought Newgarden, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi, such big names, you’ve been looking at them for years and years and years, since I was a kid. Scott has been racing for a long time. I think even before I started my open-wheel career, Josef was already in IndyCar. Basically everybody here was already in IndyCar.
“It’s just something unique. It’s something that you have to start believing that you can be like them, that you can beat them, that you can give them a run for their money. It’s a new feeling. I really don’t know what to think about it.
“I couldn’t be more stoked for the team. I’m really happy I got to give them their first Fast Six. Harding and Team Chevy have given me an awesome opportunity so far. The focus this weekend has been obviously to do a good job. My objective was always just to be in the top 10, so it was an objective succeeded.”
Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda was sixth. He was the only driver who went out on Blacks. He pitted but didn’t change tires … he stayed in the pits. “I think we made good steps forward from yesterday and this morning again to be pretty competitive this afternoon. We tried something a little different in hopes it would pay off, did the Firestone blacks for the Fast Six. But at the end of the day it clearly, as Will will attest to, is probably not the right decision.
“At this point we’re trying to hit some home runs and get it done. It wasn’t meant to be. We knew the farthest we could fall down was sixth. That’s what happened.
“Eighty-five laps tomorrow of chaos. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully we can move forward to the spot we need to.”
Track conditions were nice except for the 20 mph stiff breeze … bright and sunny, with no clouds. The temperature was 76 degrees F ambient and 104 degrees F on the track. But the wind direction changed from the morning session, not to the better. Wind and tire drop-off/degradation was an issue for everyone.
Hunter-Reay said ” It’s definitely strange that way. From a.m. to p.m., it’s two different racetracks. Especially with the wind we have now, less downforce than we had last year, you don’t know what you’re going to get lap to lap. It’s really hard to push in qualifying, especially on the first lap.
“You don’t know where to brake. Kind of a crapshoot. With tire deg it’s going to be very difficult tomorrow for anybody to make mistakes, doesn’t matter how good your car is. Haven’t looked at the wind forecast, but that’s a big one.
“It makes it very, very difficult. Should make it for an interesting race tomorrow, for that reason.”
Newgarden said ” I think we’d agree on a couple things here. Tire deg is really difficult. Wind direction is really difficult. Those are two big things.”
O’Ward said ” Tire deg is pretty big, especially on the reds. The rear tires, they go off. Not in the first five, seven laps, but afterwards it’s a pretty steep downhill. It’s a track where the degradation is known to be there. The tires just go down a little bit more.”
In the first half of Round One, most drivers of the 12 went out on Blacks- primary tires. Then several pitted and switched to Reds – optional tires. At the checkered flag at the end of the ten-minute session, all drivers were on Reds.
IndyCar issued a new points possibility chart for Sunday’s race.
In the first half of Round One, the top six were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, Rossi, Power, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, Andretti, and Graham Rahal/No.15 TOTAL Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. Most started out on Blacks – primary tires and changed to Reds – optional tires.
In the second half of Round One, most of the 13 drivers went out on Blacks. At the end, all but Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet were on Reds. Those making the cuts were Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Zach Veach/No.26 Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda, O’Ward, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
For Round Two, all drivers ended up on Reds, after many started on Blacks. The shock in that session was that Power didn’t make the cut. He was sixth fastest, 0.0682 seconds behind Andretti. That’s one point he won’t get – for pole position. It’s not even a small consolation that his 2017 qualifying track record of 1:15.5205/113.691 mph wasn’t broken – not even close.
Power said “I unfortunately should have gone another lap. It was a bad call on my part. I was pushing for one lap. Like, we just should have been thinking of getting in the Fast Six rather than the Fast Six. Now I’m thinking about tomorrow.” Regarding Setups, he said “We had a reasonable car on long runs. It will depend on how much the tires drop off.” Seventh is Power’s lowest starting position. “I have to start back there at some time. It is what it is.”
The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. local time. It is also available on radio: XM 209 and IMS IndyCar Radio as well as online: IndyCar.com and Verizon IndyCar 15 app.
1., (28), Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:17.6277, (110.605)
2., (9), Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:17.7599, (110.417)
3., (1), Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:17.7937, (110.369)
4., (98), Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:17.7999, (110.360)
5., (8), Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:17.9737, (110.114)
6., (27), Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:18.0019, (110.074)
7., (12), Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:17.6495 (110.574)
8., (22), Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:17.7489 (110.432)
9., (15), Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:17.9043 (110.212)
10., (26), Zach Veach, Honda, 01:17.9111 (110.203)
11., (18), Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:17.9242 (110.184)
12., (30), Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:17.9919 (110.088)
13., (19), Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 01:18.5281 (109.337)
14., (10), Ed Jones, Honda, 01:18.5088 (109.364)
15., (5), James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:18.5740 (109.273)
16., (60), Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:18.5892 (109.252)
17., (21), Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:18.6687 (109.141)
18., (14), Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:18.5966 (109.241)
19., (88), Colton Herta, Chevrolet, 01:18.6823 (109.122)
20., (39), Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 01:18.6172 (109.213)
21., (59), Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:18.7536 (109.024)
22., (6), Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:18.7211 (109.069)
23., (4), Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 01:18.9665 (108.730)
24., (23), Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:18.8495 (108.891)
25., (20), Jordan King, Chevrolet, 01:19.1519 (108.475)