INDIANAPOLIS — official release — Don Figler photo — Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have said to “expect the unexpected” on the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Sebastian Saavedra earning the Verizon P1 Award fits into that category.
The AFS KV AFS driver claimed his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole position topping a wild knockout qualifying session that took place during a rain shower.
“I love the rain,” Saavedra expressed after winning the pole. “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. 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.”
Saavedra, whose previous best qualifying effort on a road/street circuit was ninth in the first two events of 2013 (St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park), inherited the top spot in the closing minute of the Firestone Fast Six when the No. 28 DHL car of provisional pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay spun and made contact with the wall on the frontstretch of the rain-soaked 2.439-mile, 14-turn course.
According to the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook, Hunter-Reay’s quickest two laps of the 10-minute session were disallowed.
“We definitely gave that one away,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “It’s a fun track though. 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.”
Saavedra is the fourth different pole sitter in as many races this season, and his previous best start was sixth at Milwaukee in 2013. He’ll be joined by another surprise driver, Jack Hawksworth of BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian, who posted his best career start in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Six different teams were represented on the first three rows for the standing start on the Speedway’s frontstretch.
Hunter-Reay ended up third and will start alongside Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest in the morning practice session and set the lap record (1:09.6716) on the reconfigured track in Segment 1 of qualifying on dry pavement in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car.
Series championship points leader Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, and reigning series champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry are on Row 3.