Pagenaud powers to Detroit pole on primary tires

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DETROIT – Simon Pagenaud being on pole for a Verizon IndyCar Series race this year isn’t a surprise.

The fact the Frenchman did it on Firestone’s primary black sidewall tires, however, is.

Today the Frenchman and series points leader scored his third Verizon P1 Award of the year in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet (Barber, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course).

Pagenaud’s best lap in the Firestone Fast Six session was a 1:14.9166 around the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park street circuit in Detroit. While the rest of the runners took shots at him on Firestone’s softer red alternate tires, none was able to top Pagenaud’s time on a hot track. Temperatures were at 78 degrees ambient and 103 on track, per Firestone, after being a much cooler 74/79 respectively for the start of morning practice.

“It was very important to go with this strategy,” Pagenaud explained afterwards. “The reds have the tendency to degrade more here with the concrete. So we were very well balanced on the blacks. I could extract more of myself on the blacks, and it gave us a big advantage.”

Pagenaud and girlfriend Hailey McDermott after Pagenaud won Verizon P1 Award. Photo: IndyCar
Pagenaud and girlfriend Hailey McDermott after Pagenaud won Verizon P1 Award. Photo: IndyCar

An order of normalcy, in a sense, was restored with Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams locking out four of the six Firestone Fast Six spots.

Helio Castroneves starts second in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, having set the track record in Q2 at 1:14.6899 but slower in the Fast Six. Then Juan Pablo Montoya was third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to make it a Team Penske top three sweep.

The interlopers were James Hinchcliffe in fourth in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Magneti Marelli Honda in fifth, the latter having made his first Firestone Fast Six since Mid-Ohio 2014. Scott Dixon completed the Fast Six in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Will Power, a usual Fast Six regular, slotted into ninth.

Meanwhile the bigger story out of the earlier sessions was a disagreement between Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay told IndyCar Radio he’d been balked, earlier, by a slowing Sebastien Bourdais while Marco Andretti – who refused to talk on air – reportedly told IndyCar Radio’s Dave Furst that his teammate “effed” him.

Hunter-Reay starts 15th, Andretti 19th, with teammate Alexander Rossi following up his Indianapolis 500 win with 17th on the grid for the first of two races this weekend on Saturday.

Spencer Pigot starts 21st for his first race in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet at Ed Carpenter Racing.

Times are below:

DETROIT – Qualifying Friday for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit #1 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.35-mile(s) Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:14.9166 (112.926)
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:14.9285 (112.908)
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:15.5659 (111.955)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:15.7708 (111.653)
5. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:16.3897 (110.748)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:16.4613 (110.644)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:15.5508 (111.978)
8. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:15.6712 (111.799)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.7142 (111.736)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:15.7172 (111.732)
11. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.0998 (111.170)
12. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:16.2665 (110.927)
13. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:16.1087 (111.157)
14. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:16.3154 (110.856)
15. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.2643 (110.930)
16. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:16.6370 (110.391)
17. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.4512 (110.659)
18. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:16.7138 (110.280)
19. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.4965 (110.593)
20. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:16.9140 (109.993)
21. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.6894 (108.895)
22. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:18.3918 (107.919)

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”