IndyCar: Sebastian Saavedra takes GP of Indy pole in bizarre session

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In one of the more bizarre qualifying Verizon IndyCar Series sessions in recent memory, Sebastian Saavedra has captured the pole position for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, as torrential rain, light rain and sun were all in play over the course of qualifying.

“I love the rain. 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,” Saavedra said. “We were comfortable yesterday, as it got hotter, we just needed to work a little bit more – especially with the rain. We made a huge leap this 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.”

With Saavedra and Jack Hawksworth on the front row, this is the actuality of an IndyCar bizarro world – an IndyCar race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, featuring two of the more unheralded drivers in the field posting the two fastest laps in a qualifying session that included everything but Noah shipping into the track with an ark and two of every animal.

This is nothing to take away from either driver, but it’s a stunning result.

Saavedra, in the No. 17 KV/AFS Racing Chevrolet, had never made a Firestone Fast Six previously and his best start on a road or street course was ninth, in each of the first two races last year. His best career start was sixth, at Milwaukee’s one-mile oval last year.

Hawksworth, meanwhile, has his second Firestone Fast Six appearance and a career best qualifying effort in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s best time of 1:23.8480 was better than Saavedra’s 1:23.8822, but Hunter-Reay caused a red flag after an accident, losing control exiting Turn 14. He backed into the wall and as a result, lost his two fastest laps.

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

He’ll start third, ahead of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

Sebastien Bourdais was best of those knocked out in Q2, which from P8-12 included a trio of Indianapolis 500 winners in Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal.

Rahal only made it into Q2 following a penalty assessed to Mikhail Aleshin for qualifying interference, reportedly on Sebastien Bourdais. Aleshin had these two tweets following the penalty, one in English and one in his native Russian:

Loosely translated, the Russian tweet said he was penalized for blocking Bourdais although he claimed Bourdais was far behind and not on a flying lap. Feel free to put the text into your favorite translation service.

Of the dust-up, Aleshin’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Simon Pagenaud said, “What I can tell you is that he and Sebastien Bourdais are becoming best friends.”

Marco Andretti just missed out in Q1 and will start 13th. Others of note who failed to advance included Josef Newgarden, Justin Wilson, and Long Beach winner Mike Conway, who’s been struggling all weekend.

Qualifying times, and a video wrap-up of the session, are below.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: GRAND PRIX OF INDIANAPOLIS

Juncos Racing to field single car entry in Indy 500

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Part-time NTT IndyCar Series entrant Juncos Racing will announce their attempt to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 within the next few weeks, according to RACER.

The team, which made its Indy 500 debut in 2017, ran 12 of the 17 IndyCar Series races last season, but has only made a start in one of the four events so far in 2019, finishing 18th in the inaugural running of the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas with Kyle Kaiser behind the wheel.

Though no driver has yet to be announced for the single-car entry, Kaiser is expected to be the leading candidate for the ride. The 23-year-old Californian has raced for the team since 2014, where he won the 2017 Indy Lights championship.

One of the top teams in the Road to Indy ladder system, Juncos Racing has over 50 wins between Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 competition. The team’s most recent victory came in the second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg this year with Rinus VeeKay behind the wheel.

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