Franchitti fastest, Viso to start P1 in Detroit IndyCar race 1

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Dario Franchitti captured the Verizon P1 Award for the first race in the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit, after his Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew rebuilt his No. 10 Suave Honda.

Franchitti’s second pole of the year (Long Beach), though, comes with an asterisk – he’ll start 11th because of an unapproved engine change made during the month of May at Indianapolis. Incidentally Franchitti benefited from that situation twice last year, at Long Beach and Edmonton, when Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay had engine changes ahead of races where they qualified on the pole.

“I’m delighted to have gotten the pole here, especially after this morning,” Franchitti said. “At the end I had no expectation. With a 10-spot grid penalty, just went out and pushed as hard as I could every lap. Through Turn 8 the last lap I got crossed up in the middle, almost hit the wall, lost a bit of time. Ultimately it was good enough. I have got to thank the Target boys for turning the car.”

Franchitti did well even to advance in his group from Q1, as he was just sixth place to advance in a wet session.

Behind Franchitti on the timesheets, and the man who will actually lead the field to green in race one, is Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso. Viso has equaled his best ever qualifying attempt (second), set in Brazil roughly one month ago.

“Team gave us a pretty competitive car; little by little things are coming together,” said Viso. “I’m excited to be once again in the front row.”

The rest of the Firestone Fast Six qualifiers included Mike Conway, posting a sterling effort in Dale Coyne’s second car, James Jakes in his first ever Fast Six (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Ryan Hunter-Reay in his best Detroit qualifying effort and Alex Tagliani in his first Fast Six of the season for Barracuda Racing.

Several drivers were caught out on timing in Q2, when the session shifted from yellow to red for Helio Castroneves’ stalled car at Turn 3. Tristan Vautier, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Sebastian Saavedra missed the Q2 cut.

On Saturday, IndyCar will set the grid for the second Dual at 9:15 a.m. ET, and have the first race of the doubleheader at 3:30 p.m. ET. The updated tire choices for race one are below, with Firestone’s blacks the primarys and reds the alternate.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans 1
Unofficial Starting Lineup

Row 1
5-E.J. Viso (Primary)
18-Mike Conway (Primary)

Row 2
16-James Jakes (Alternate)
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay (Primary)

Row 3
98-Alex Tagliani (Alternate)
55-Tristan Vautier (Alternate)

Row 4
14-Takuma Sato (Primary)
77-Simon Pagenaud (Primary)

Row 5
12-Will Power (Primary)
6-Sebastian Saavedra (Alternate)

Row 6
10-Dario Franchitti* (Alternate)
3-Helio Castroneves (Primary)

Row 7
2-AJ Allmendinger (Primary)
7-Sebastien Bourdais (Primary)

Row 8
9-Scott Dixon (Primary)
19-Justin Wilson (Primary)

Row 9
78-Simona de Silvestro (Alternate)
25-Marco Andretti (Primary)

Row 10
11-Tony Kanaan (Primary)
27-James Hinchcliffe (Primary)

Row 11
4-Ryan Briscoe (Alternate)
20-Ed Carpenter (Primary)

Row 12
15-Graham Rahal* (Primary)
67-Josef Newgarden* (Primary)

Row 13
83-Charlie Kimball* (Primary)

*Denotes 10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.