Saturday was a roller coaster ride for the Verizon IndyCar Series. With a shaky weather forecast all weekend long, storms rolled in just as qualifying for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana was just about to begin.
The first group of qualifiers completed their session, which couldn’t have been much worse for Team Penske drivers Juan Montoya and Helio Castroneves. Neither of them advanced to the second round, and were destined to start in the rear of the field for tomorrow’s race. Four minutes into the second group’s run, the lightning came out and the session was red-flagged. Conditions worsened, and IndyCar decided to cancel qualifying. The starting lineup for Sunday’s race will be set by points.
That was a relief for most drivers, including Montoya and Castroneves. Montoya starts on pole alongside Will Power on the front row, while Castroneves starts fourth, sharing row two with Tony Kanaan. It was also a monumental turn of events for Sebastien Bourdais. Despite having the fastest time in qualifying, IndyCar ruled that he interfered with Kanaan after rejoining the track, and removed his two fastest laps, which would not have allowed him to advance into Round 2 of qualifying. Team owner Jimmy Vasser was irate, as seen in his interview below.
Like Montoya and Castroneves, Bourdais will start up front (sixth) instead of the rear. On the opposite end of the spectrum, are Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe. Because of the Bourdais penalty, Hinchcliffe would have advanced to Round 2 of qualifying. Instead, he’ll start in 16th tomorrow. Dixon was also set to move on to Round 2, but will begin the race in 15th position.
Earlier in the day, when things were still dry, Dixon paced the field in the final practice session, with a lap of 1:18.5538. Simon Pagenaud was second, and Rookie Gabby Chaves was third fastest. Another Rookie joined the top five, as Sage Karam was just behind Power. The 24 drivers turned a total of 1128 laps around the 2.74 mile course. You can click here to see the full results for Saturday’s practice session.
The lightning was fierce, and wasn’t letting up. IndyCar had to make the call.
The race distance is 75 laps, which is 205.5 miles around the new 13-turn road course.
Coverage for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana begins at 2:30 PM ET on NBC SN. IndyCar has moved up the start time of the race. The green flag is now set for 2:45 PM ET. Brian Till will have the play-by-play call, and he’ll be joined by analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kelly Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.
Qualifying Photos via IndyCar