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

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III