Saavedra Wins Pole After Hunter-Reay Slips In Rain

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 10 2014

The wet track at the IMS road course did Sabastian Saavedra a big favor on Friday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have said to “expect the unexpected” on the revised Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Sebastian Saavedra’s first pole and Verizon P1 Award fits neatly into that idea.

Saavedra, a 23-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia, claimed his first series pole during a wild knockout qualifying session that took place during a rain shower.

Saavedra, whose previous best qualifying effort on a road/street circuit was ninth in the first two events of 2013 (St. Petersburg, Fla., and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.), inherited the top spot in the closing minute of the Firestone Fast Six. That’s when the No. 28 DHL Dallara/Honda of provisional pole-sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay spun and made contact with the wall on the front stretch of the rain-soaked, 2.439-mile/14-turn layout.

According to the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook, Hunter-Reay’s quickest two laps of the 10-minute session were disallowed. Thus, Saavedra was handed P1 after lapping at 1 minute, 23.8822-seconds and 104.675 mph in the No. 17 AFS KV AFS Dallara/Chevrolet.

“We definitely gave that one away,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion with Andretti Autosport. “Since we got here it’s been dry-wet-dry-wet. It was changing conditions and a lot of fun but it ended the wrong way, so congrats to Saavedra _ good job and good pace.”

Saavedra, who won Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year honors with AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing in 2009, became the fourth different pole-sitter in as many races this season.

“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,” said Saavedra, who made his IndyCar Series debut in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 with Bryan Herta Autosport. “We were comfortable (Thursday in practice); as it got hotter, we just needed to work a little bit more, especially with the rain. We made a huge leap in the 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 will be joined in the front row by another surprise qualifier _ rookie Jack Hawksworth of England in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Dallara/Honda at 104.431 mph. Six different teams are represented in the first three rows for the standing start on the Speedway’s frontstretch.

Hunter-Reay, winner of Round 3 at Barber Motorsports Park on April 26, ended up third on the grid. He will start alongside Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest in the morning practice session and set the lap record (1:09.6716-seconds) on the reconfigured former Formula One track during Segment 1 of qualifying on dry pavement in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Dallara/Honda.

Championship point leader Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, and three-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet will start from Row 3.

“I know how it feels when you get your first pole,” said Power, winner of the season-opener on the Streets of St. Pete. ”It feels pretty cool.”

Drivers will receive the command to start engines at 3:43 p.m. (ET) with the green flag for the 82-lap/200-mile event set for 3:50 p.m. The race will be televised live by ABC.

Qualifying Friday for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara/Chevy, 01:23.8822 (104.675)

2. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara/Honda, 01:24.0788 (104.431)

3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 01:24.8882 (103.435)

4. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Honda, 01:25.2881 (102.950)

5. (12) Will Power, Dallara/Chevy, 01:25.5216 (102.669)

6. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Chevy, 01:25.6548 (102.509)

7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara/Chevy, 01:24.5187 (103.887)

8. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara/Chevy, 01:24.6209 (103.762)

9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevy, 01:24.7099 (103.653)

10. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevy, 01:24.8839 (103.440)

11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Honda, 01:25.1318 (103.139)

12. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 01:25.4748 (102.725)

13. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.2488 (124.990)

14. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara/Chevy, 01:10.2261 (125.030)

15. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.3601 (124.792)

16. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.2804 (124.934)

17. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.4264 (124.675)

18. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.4141 (124.697)

19. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.5097 (124.528)

20. (41) Martin Plowman, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.4591 (124.617)

21. (26) Franck Montagny, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.5571 (124.444)

22. (16) Oriol Servia, Dallara/Honda, 01:10.5996 (124.369)

23. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Chevy, 01:10.6413 (124.296)

24. (20) Mike Conway, Dallara/Chevy, 01:10.6535 (124.274)

25. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara/Honda, 01:11.2704 (123.198)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 10 2014
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