SPOILER: IndyCar at Sao Paulo qualifying

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Andretti Autosport locked down the front row for tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300, with reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay winning his second pole of the season by three-tenths of a second over teammate E.J. Viso in the Firestone Fast Six.

Hunter-Reay will look to bounce back from a dismal 24th place result two weeks ago at Long Beach, and his pole in Brazil could be a sign of things to come. In the second round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, the American racer converted a pole position into a victory.

As for Viso, the P2 effort earns him his best-ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series, topping his previous best of fourth from 2009 at Long Beach.

Dario Franchitti will look to continue his climb out of an early-season slump from the third starting position and will be in Row 2 alongside crowd favorite Tony Kanaan. A third Andretti Autosport driver, James Hinchcliffe, starts fifth and Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, goes off sixth.

The Team Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Will Power were shut out of the Firestone Fast Six after failing to advance out of the first round of qualifying. Both drivers were in the second qualifying group in Round 1 and both were on the outside looking in when an apparent mechanical failure forced James Jakes to stop his No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda on course. The incident brought out a red flag that would end the 10-minute session, and now Castroneves and Power will have to charge from the rear of the field tomorrow.

Also facing tough climbs tomorrow are youngsters Tristan Vautier and Josef Newgarden. In Round 1, rookie pilot Vautier got up and over the curbing at Turn 2, then slammed into the outside wall to cause considerable damage to his No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Honda. As for Newgarden, who was second in today’s first practice session, he was unable to qualify for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing due to an engine change.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Qualifying Results

Qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses
1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.4312 (113.508)
2. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.7380 (113.077)
3. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 01:20.8922 (112.861)
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9812 (112.737)
5. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9893 (112.726)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.1183 (112.547)
7. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.8210 (112.961)
8. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9390 (112.796)
9. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.0570 (112.632)
10. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.1716 (112.473)
11. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.2961 (112.301)
12. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.3618 (112.210)
13. (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.7963 (111.614)
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 01:24.0203 (108.659)
15. (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.8636 (111.522)
16. (18) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 01:24.8864 (107.551)
17. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 01:22.2482 (111.001)
18. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:25.1734 (107.188)
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:22.2998 (110.931)
20. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 04:00.2612 (37.999)
21. (55) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 03:20.5417 (45.525)
22. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 04:05.5886 (37.174)
23. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, No Time (No Speed)
24. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 04:23.1097 (34.699)
25. (16) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, No Time (No Speed)

Watch tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”