Hunter-Reay crashes in wet and loses pole to Saavedra
Colombian Sebastian Saavedra (KV Racing) and rookie Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Racing) will start 1-2 Saturday with Hunter-Reay lining up 3rd.
Driving the No. 17 KV AFS Racing Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone, Saavedra went out in the first group for round one of qualifying on the newly re-designed 2.439 mile 14-turn track. He was able to set a fast time of 70.1443 seconds, which put him in fifth place, so he advanced to the second round. Just prior to the second session, a brief heavy rainstorm struck the speedway and track conditions became exceedingly wet.
Saavedra spent the session hovering just outside the top-six, but on the final lap laid down his fastest time of the round (74.1972 seconds) to put him fifth and into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his IndyCar career.
Just as the green flag was shown for the final qualifying round, the heavy rain returned and the red flag came out. A fan of the rain, Saavedra then made the most of his time on track when it went back to green. He set a fast time of 73.8822 seconds on lap three, which put him into first for a brief moment, before being moved back by Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"What a way to start May," said Saavedra. "This is my first ever IndyCar pole. I am so proud of the whole KV AFS Racing team, they all did a fantastic job. Everyone saw how crazy the weather was, we just kept calm, made the right decisions and choices and it happened. We made a huge leap this morning and then the whole qualifying session was just weird. It started to rain and went from wet, to dry, to super dry, to super wet. I loved it and now look forward to the race tomorrow."
"We definitely gave that one away," said Hunter-Reay. "It’s a fun track. Since we got here it’s been dry-wet-dry-wet. It was changing conditions and it was a lot of fun, but it ended the wrong way, so congrats to Saavedra – good job and good pace.
"I love the rain," said Saavedra. "It was crazy at first because we didn’t know what to expect from the track – if it was going to be wet, if it was going to be dry,” Saavedra said. “We were comfortable yesterday, as it got hotter, we just needed to work a little bit more – especially with the rain. We made a huge leap this morning and then the whole session was just weird. It started to rain and went from wet, to dry, to super dry, to super wet. I loved it.”
With Saavedra and Jack Hawksworth on the front row in an IndyCar race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway running clockwise instead of counter, featuring two of the more unheralded drivers in the field posting the two fastest laps in a qualifying session in sometimes heavy downpours proves IndyCar puts on the best show in racing week in and week out.
This is nothing to take away from either driver, they deserve the result, and it shows the depth of the IndyCar field. Good stuff.
Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-6.
This is the first pole for Sebastian Saavedra in the Verizon IndyCar Series. His previous best start was sixth at Milwaukee in 2013.
Jack Hawksworth's second place start is his best start in the Verizon IndyCar Series. It is his second appearance in Firestone Fast Six in four starts. He was also in Firestone Fast Six at Long Beach.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only driver to qualify for every Firestone Fast Six session this season.
Simon Pagenaud's lap of 1:09.6716 from Round 1 set a track record for the modified Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We definitely gave that one away. It’s a fun track. Since we got here it’s been dry-wet-dry-wet. It was changing conditions and it was a lot of fun, but it ended the wrong way, so congrats to Saavedra – good job and good pace. It’s going to be a really great championship race (tomorrow) and there will be a lot of passing – especially with these long straights. There will be a lot of different strategies on downforce and tires. I think there will be a lot of (teams) mixing it up like you always do with the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Mistic KVSH Racing): “I am a little disappointed not to make the Firestone Fast Six…missed it by a couple of hundredths of a second. I just made a mistake in turn three on my fastest lap and that was pretty much that. The Mistic E- Cigs guys have done a good job. We have a good race car. One with a strong pace in dry conditions. It is just a matter of getting a good start tomorrow, staying out of trouble and hopefully finally getting a strong result at the checkered flag.”
MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We did improve the car from yesterday. But we have been behind and it’s tough trying to catch up. I think we could have used a dry session this morning to help make the car a little better. But it didn’t work out that way. The conditions today were changing all of the time. We still have some work to do for the race. We’ll sit down and go over the data tonight and see what direction will be best for the race. With no warm-up on Saturday, I think a lot of people will have some unknowns entering the race.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “Tough day for us today. With the practice session being wet in the morning, we had no time to try something that we wanted to do after yesterday’s analysis of the car setup because the car requires a different setup in the wet. So we went straight into qualifying with a little bit unknown, but we tried our best but didn’t have the speed. I think we improved the car a bit but we’re struggling with the lap times and the balance. We don’t have a morning warm-up so hopefully we can put things together after looking at the qualifying data and have a better run tomorrow.”
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Qualifying was difficult. The car was still a bit hard to drive and, yeah, it wasn’t easy to get the maximum and the times are really close. Every little detail makes a big difference. It has been difficult to try different setups on the car because of the different conditions and it doesn’t make things easy. It would have been nice to have the same conditions in practice so we could try different setups.”
MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 41 Alfe/ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "It was a fun but tough first qualifying for us as it was the first time that I've used the Firestone red tires, so I didn't have any time to learn what the limit was of these tires. I felt like we missed the balance of the car a little bit, which hurt me by a couple of tenths. Overall I think to be right on pace with Takuma with no experience is not a bad result, but of course we would both like to be further up the field. I think if we put together all of the small details, we could have been in the top 12, but we'll save that for tomorrow when it really matters."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): “We were right on the cusp in Round 1. We did the same lap time as the guys ahead of us and were right on the cusp and Aleshin got a penalty and we slid in. I feel like our car was good enough to get there anyway. The tire pressures came up in the rear a little too high and we were sliding a bit too much those last couple of laps. At the end of the day we’re starting twelfth. I’m proud of this National Guard team. These guys keep working very hard and we’re going to get one at some point. I think we’re going to have a good day tomorrow. We’re starting 12th and we can work from there. (On Push to Pass:) Push to Pass is going to have a huge impact here because the straightaway is so long. Without a doubt, it’s going to play a huge role in this race. Hopefully we will have a good car and be right up there.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “I’m disappointed. The car was way better than I showed. We had changed the car a lot and I went out there to qualifying and you really have two laps to make it happen. I was judging the car and by the time I figured it out it was too late. I was six-tenths (of a second) from the fastest time, and three-tenths from making the cut. It’s not like you are miles away from making the cut. You have two laps to do it and I just guessed too much and I didn’t guess right on my driving. I think we have a good car for the race if it stays dry. It’s not where I wanted to start but it’s a race that, with how they have designed this track with long straights and a lot of passing zones, it will definitely be a race where you can move forward. (On Push to Pass:) With the long straight, if you’re behind somebody that is not pushing Push to Pass and you are, you are definitely going to pass them. You can gain two or three miles just from the Push to Pass. It’s going to make it even more important to make sure you have them when you need them. We will have to be smart about that.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “The car felt really good and I felt confident that we had the speed to qualify better, but we just ran out of time. I was preparing the car for another lap and then we got the checkered flag. It’s just disappointing that we didn’t get the chance to go another lap, but the car felt really strong and I’m confident that we could’ve qualified much better with one more. We just need to look towards tomorrow now and make sure the car is ready to go.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): “Obviously I’m not very happy (with the outcome). I think it was a team decision to go out because we were worried about the weather. We plateaued too early and the car got better at the end, so we’re sitting on the outside looking in on this hundredth of a second… I’m losing sleep over this. (The rain during the session) I think it threw off our strategy a bit as we rushed and went out a bit early. When the track was at its best, we had already plateaued so it’s a bummer.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): “I don’t really know what happened during qualifying. The Cinsay car wasn’t bad – I was feeling more or less good with the car, just the time game came into play. It was my worst qualifying of the year. Tomorrow is a long race; we’ll have to work tonight to see what happened during qualifying and make it better for tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Klipsch/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “It’s a really close field, IndyCar is just really tight all around. With everyone being incredibly good and close, if you miss it by a little bit you can be off. It’s a shame we didn’t get through to the next round, I think we were close to a top-5 car, but we will be working hard tomorrow and try to run up front.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Going from dry to wet conditions wasn’t a big problem for us. We gambled and took a lot of rear wing out of the car for the wet track and we paid the price. We knew we need to run a little less during the practice session, but I think we went a bit too far. I think for the dry track we were really good. The fastest car in my group. It’s another step forward. I really feel like I had a shot at the pole today with the No. 2 Verizon Chevy, so it’s a little disappointing to be starting where we are. We only used one set of red Firestone tires, so I’m managing to get it all out early in the run. I think we are going to have a great race tomorrow."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The car felt pretty good although there was a slight problem with the brakes. But the balance of the car really felt nice. I’m disappointed to get knocked out, but obviously we just need to do an even better job. The car felt good, so I’m not sure how much we gave up with the braking issue. It is going to make for an interesting race. I’m going to be coming up from the back and aiming to be up front.” On brake issue: “A different wheel every break zone would lock up, so it was constantly changing every lap. It was difficult to keep up with what was happening and I couldn’t quite push the brake zones all the way to the limit. But we will just keep working and see what happens tomorrow.”
FRANCK MONTAGNY (No. 26 Suretone Honda): “I was out at the beginning, but I saw the rain coming and I said, ‘OK I’ll keep my eyes on my back tires’. I come in, put the reds on and got out on the straightaway. I thought there was a chance for me after that, but there wasn’t once the rain stopped. Most guys here are tough you know, they have been here for ages and they know the car perfectly. I'm not too disappointed about my pace. I'm like two tenths off Marco, which is a good reference here with this championship. But to tell you the truth, it has been six years since I’ve been in single-seater car. It's not a baby championship; it’s the big guys out there. I’ll do the best I can tomorrow; I’ve got a very good team behind me so the race will be better.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Our No. 3 Verizon Chevrolet was doing pretty good. We were able to make it to the second round of qualifying. But then the rain came and made for an interesting scenario. It became very wet and we weren’t able to take the chance that we needed to in order to make it to the Firestone Fast Six. We get to start tomorrow from the top-10 and it’s going to be a big race, a long race and I’m looking forward to the first Grand Prix here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was an interesting few sessions. Strategy-wise Team Target went out on older wets because we didn't have enough new sets to run. I think Will (Power) was on the same strategy. Came in, took tires, there was a red. That definitely hurt us and caught us out. Still in the Fast Six. I think we got a good opportunity. The No. 9 Target car has been quick all week. Hopefully we can have a smooth race tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing Honda): “Yeah, it's the exact same team on the 77 side. The advantage of three years in a row is that we worked on details years after years. The first year you kind of get a feel for it. Then myself as a driver, I wasn't fully up to speed yet. In the third year it's a lot easier to work on your driving, improve it here and there, get the car to your liking week in and week out. That's what difficult about IndyCar, it's so tight, so competitive, that it's actually difficult to get to that level. That's why consistency with people is key. It has been for us, for sure.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I know how it feels when you get your first pole. It feels pretty cool. You feel a little bit of pressure going into the race. Man, there's no bad drivers in this series. That's why you see such a mixed-up qualifying session week in, week out. They're all good. They're all good racers. They can all win races. To me, yeah, I think they're going to do a good job and we'll see what happens. We'll know tomorrow. “
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge Honda): (On being a one-car team) “I think it has its pros and cons. In some ways it's good, get through the politics. To be honest, I'm working very well with the team. They're giving me what I want. I think I'm able to kind of lead them in the right direction with the car, as well. I'm not too worried about not having a teammate. I kind of like it. Really looking forward to the rest of the season with them. We started the season out quite strong. There's been glimmers of speed and potential. Not all quite there yet, but hopefully tomorrow is the day when we do to. Bryan is awesome. He's experienced. He's got the T-shirt, been there, won races. Always good to bounce ideas off him. He's always there giving advice to myself on driving. Also he understands the feelings which perhaps sometimes I have with the car. He can relate to that. Yeah, it's a good relationship. It really helps for sure”
1. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 01:23.8822 (104.675)
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