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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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