Penalties, rain and Pagenaud dominate second qualifying in Detroit

Photo: IndyCar
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DETROIT – Quite a number of penalties, perhaps influenced by driver desires to get clear track space or laps to bank ahead of impending rain, upset the formbook a bit in qualifying for Round 8 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the second race in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans.

But there was still a familiar name on top for the Verizon P1 Award: points leader Simon Pagenaud secured his fourth pole this year and sixth of his career.

Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet, broke the track record set in yesterday’s race (Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at 1:14.6675) in the first of two groups of qualifying, with the session bumped up 15 minutes from its scheduled start time owing to the impending rain.

His best time was a 1:14.0379 and was one of three official qualifying laps quicker than the new track record. And as he did yesterday, Pagenaud set the qualifying time on Firestone’s black primary tires, rather than the softer red alternate tires, which have seemed to gone off quicker this weekend on the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park street course.

“A bit of rain really helped us to stay fastest in the group,” Pagenaud said. “I’m really, really proud of the guys on my team. We will see what can do for today. We will adjust the car for the race conditions. We don’t know what the weather is going to do yet; we will just have to watch the radar. Quite frankly, we’ll just try to do what we did yesterday and put our car in the right place at the right time.”

Helio Castroneves was second in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:14.1904 in the session, ahead of a trio of Hondas, Mikhail Aleshin, Graham Rahal and Jack Hawksworth.

Conor Daly was actually potentially fifth in the session in his No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda after ending second yesterday – his best time in the session was 1:14.4872 – but it was invalidated for causing a local yellow in Turn 3. With a next best lap of 1:15.4766, Daly ended 11th in his group and will thus start 21st later today.

The second group, meanwhile, had a tougher time of it needing to bank laps before rain. And a number of penalties followed.

Four penalties were assessed:

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) was issued a drive-through for a pit speeding violation.
  • Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) lost his two fastest laps for qualifying interference.
  • Marco Andretti (No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Vernon’s Honda) lost his fastest lap for causing a local yellow.
  • Alexander Rossi (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda) lost his fastest lap for not slowing down in a local yellow zone.

Power’s penalty, the most egregious assessed, was also the costliest. His two fastest laps were 1:13.8835 – which would have been a new track record on its own – and 1:14.2661. But since he lost those, his third best lap of the session, a 1:14.8392, was enough to put him fourth in his group and ultimately eighth on the grid.

Power, unsurprisingly, wasn’t pleased with the penalty assessed.

“I was on an out lap. Couldn’t go any faster,” Power told IndyCar Radio’s Dave Furst. “It’s just the way everything seems to go right now. Of course it would rain in my session. It’s frustrating, man. We were so fast.

“I don’t agree with the penalty. These guys have got this wrong because they don’t understand the conditions. It was wet.”

Hunter-Reay, despite his penalty, actually ended quickest in his group at 1:14.5621 and will start second, with Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Power and Juan Pablo Montoya top five in the group. Sebastien Bourdais, Saturday’s winner, was sixth in the group and will roll off 12th.

Unofficial times from the two groups are below.