A dramatic conclusion to qualifying for today’s first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader weekend saw Sebastien Bourdais claim his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole of 2014 and Simon Pagenaud crash in Turn 8 as he attempted to take the pole from his fellow Frenchman.
With one minute remaining in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves was atop the grid with a 59.1499-second lap. But Team Penske teammate Will Power was able to leap-frog him with a 59.1025 – only to have Bourdais, driving the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, knock him off with a 58.9479.
Bourdais’ first pole of the year is also his first in American open-wheel racing since taking a Champ Car pole for a September 2007 race in the Netherlands.
“That was a ballsy call by the team,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio. “They saw that we might have left a bit early [in the FF6] and the track was getting better.
“Most everybody was waiting behind us and when they said, ‘Alright, pit now, we’re going to put you on a new set of tires and try again,’ I’m like, ‘Okay? You sure about this?’
“And it worked out to perfection. I didn’t believe in it but they made it happen for me, and the Hydroxycut machine was really strong in qualifying today.”
As for Pagenaud, he was pushing hard for a buzzer-beater lap of his own – only to hit the wall coming out of Turn 8 and near the timing line. Luckily for him, he had been able to post the fifth-fastest time in the FF6 before the crash.
Power wound up earning the outside front row spot alongside Bourdais. Behind him in Row 2 will be Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay; Castroneves holds a slim, nine-point lead over Power in the IndyCar standings going into today’s 85-lap race.
Tony Kanaan, who has dominated the last two races only to come away without wins in each of them, will start on the outside of Pagenaud in Row 3.
Hometown hero James Hinchcliffe is further back on the grid, but not much further. The Toronto area native is slated to start ninth today.
“It’s disappointing, because I think the United Fiber and Data car should’ve been up there,” Hinchcliffe said. “I wanted to be a little higher up there for the Canadian fans and get into that Fast Six.
“But we can work from there. This is a street track that you can definitely make some moves on. I’ve seen my boss [team owner Michael Andretti] come from last place and win here, so we’re still optimistic for today.”
Coverage of today’s race is NOW on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – HONDA INDY TORONTO, RACE ONE
STARTING GRID/TIRE DESIGNATION