Will Power finished in second last week in the Indianapolis 500. That came two weeks after his win there, on the road course in the Angie’s List Grand Prix. Today, he set a new track record at Belle Isle, on his way to winning the Pole for tomorrow’s race – the first of two this weekend. It’s the 39th career pole for Power, who is just one behind Rick Mears for fifth on the all-time list. It’s no surprise to see the Australian driver up front. Last year he won the first race, and finished second in Race 2.
Power had a lap at 1:16.0941 on the 2.35 mile 14-turn street course, and will be joined on the front row by teammate Helio Castroneves. A third Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud, will start on Row 2 alongside Takuma Sato. Row 3 belongs to Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya and Sebastien Bourdais. Scott Dixon, Stefano Coletti, Marco Andretti, and James Jakes round out the top ten.
It was a rough day for Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, and Josef Newgarden. They will be starting 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th respectively. It was an impressive run for Tristan Vautier, who will be starting 11th in tomorrow’s race for Dale Coyne Racing. Sage Karam was second fastest in the morning practice session, but had a slip up in qualifying and will start 12th tomorrow.
The race distance is 70 laps, which is 164.5 miles around the 2.35-mile 14-turn street circuit at Belle Isle. Castroneves and Sato won the Pole for last year’s races, and Power and Castroneves are the defending race winners.
Coverage for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit (Race 1) begins Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ABC. Qualifying for Race 2 will take place on Sunday morning before the second race. Here is how the Race 2 lineup will be determined, according to IndyCar:
In qualifications for Race 2, all cars will participate in one of two groups for 12 minutes each. The pole position will be awarded to the best overall lap time in both sessions. The remainder of the cars from the pole sitter’s qualifying group will occupy the odd-numbered positions on the starting grid, ranked by lap time, beginning with third. Even-numbered starting positions will be filled by the other group, ranked by lap time, starting with second.
Will Power: “Yeah, it’s the pole but it’s a long race around here. Once again it’s about battling the teammates around here and we have all year. It’s been a great weekend and a really good start. We will try and keep ourselves out of trouble and see what magic we can do tomorrow. I had new tires so I was pushing hard. Then they said Helio and Juan were pretty close. I made a couple of mistakes and the car was pretty loose. But overall it’s a fantastic job and a good start to the weekend.”
Juan Montoya: “We had a decent practice. Just really couldn’t put a good lap together because so many red flags and stuff. In qualifying we made a couple changes. We made it a little better, but it wasn’t as good as we wanted it. Good thing we got a practice tomorrow. To tell you the truth, you probably hear other people complain about the bumpiness of the track. But it reminds me of ’99, 2000, street course, a lot of personality. There’s a couple good bumps. Makes it a little tricky. Has a lot of character. Last corner, man, it’s fast. Way too fast. I think track position is important. If it’s going to be wet, being up front is going to help.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Hitachi Penske car was really good actually. We used new tires in the second stint and (Will Power) didn’t, so they used new tires on the third round and we didn’t. So that’s how amazing our car was. That’s why I’m so happy. For being that close with tires that already had a run on them, it was absolutely amazing. The Hitachi boys did an awesome job. I wanted that pole position pretty badly, so let’s go for the race tomorrow. The most important thing is the race. It was a good battle today between me, Will and the rest of Team Penske. Let’s go for tomorrow and see what happens.”
Conor Daly: “I was actually much happier this time than my last time on reds in Long Beach. We were really close to making it in and I think we were definitely in the more stout group. I lost a little time from a bit of wheel spin in the middle sector of the track out of Turn 7, so that would’ve put us very close to being in, which is nice. Obviously, we’re not as high up as we’d like to be but it’s only my second time qualifying these cars on a street course so I’m trying to look at the positives.”
James Jakes: “It was a pretty good day, really. We were the third quickest Honda. I think we left a little bit on the table – got obstructed a little bit in our session – we wanted to try a few things and weren’t able to. Obviously though, this was our best qualifying of the year. It’s a track that I like and I’ve had a bit of success around here so I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. I think we’ve got a good No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda, and with the weather coming in like it is, the closer you can start to the front, the better.”
Sage Karam: “We had a great car this morning and the COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records team was really on it. We took a big swing at some changes in the afternoon qualifying session that just ended up being in the wrong direction, unfortunately. I locked up the tires in qualifying and that slowed us down. There is still a lot of speed in the car and we’ll continue to work on it tomorrow for Qualifying 2 and the race.”
Scott Dixon: “There are a lot of tough challenges with the Detroit track. The surface is very bumpy and the Target car just wants to plow with understeer in Turn 3. On our last run we had the No. 3 car back us up on our fast laps in the last few corners. Overall it’s very close out there and I don’t think we had enough for pole today, but maybe the top six if we weren’t held up. We’ll work hard tonight to try and figure the car out and get it better for tomorrow.”
Tony Kanaan: “I’m really frustrated with our qualifying run. We were up front in the first practice session and the car felt really good, and then we turn around in qualifying and don’t even make it out of the first round. I think we’re all just kind of scratching our heads trying to figure out what happened between this morning’s session and this afternoon’s qualifying rounds. We definitely have some work to do tonight with the car and thinking about the best strategy for tomorrow, but I have complete confidence in the team to make sure we’re ready to go tomorrow afternoon.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously, I am very happy that the Mistic E-Cigs Circle K machine made it to the Firestone Fast Six. However, at the same time I’m a little baffled by being a second off the pace. It was a pretty big step up from last year, on what was our most difficult weekend on a street or road circuit pace-wise. We tried a lot of things here last year, but could never get it right. This year, we unloaded a car that seemed to be much more on par with the opposition. It was strong on a green track, but as the grip came up we struggle to get grip and balance. So, we will take a look at the data tonight and see what changes we want to make for tomorrow.”
Takuma Sato: “Nice to be squeezing into the top six with the Chevrolet’s dominance. We’ve been there. St. Petersburg we were top six. It’s not impossible. (Ryan) Hunter-Reay had a really good qualifying at Long Beach. Once the car got everything together, seems like we’re able to compete with the highest level. The window is very narrow for our package, so it’s very difficult to manage. I think here as it is so bumpy, you’re never going to get the consistent cornering anyway. I had quite a good feeling from last year. So pleased to put everything together. The No. 14 car worked well, and the crew. Honda Performance Development, Honda, put everything they can. Obviously we made some changes for the front wing for this Grand Prix for the safety reason. One nice thing that we don’t have to worry about is too much configuration on the front wing. Very simple, up and down front flap. I think it made it okay. Certainly for the race situation, I think we may be better.”
Graham Rahal: “I’m pretty disappointed with qualifying. The team has been doing such a great job and we’ve been so competitive everywhere and when we got on track this morning, the car just felt like it was off and that carried through to qualifying. We’re going to have to make some changes for the morning practice, but hopefully we can make the right changes, head in the right direction and have a good day tomorrow. Starting 13th isn’t the worst thing we’ve ever done, but it’s certainly not the best. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Hopefully we can get the Steak ‘n Shake car up there. It would be slippery for sure in the rain here but it’s the same for everybody. I would feel pretty good about it if it rained. I feel like I could make up some positions, but we’re just going to have to see what tomorrow brings.”
Simon Pagenaud: “First win in IndyCar is always an important thing. It’s always cool to come back here, now driving for Team Penske. It’s our home event. Yeah, it’s a really cool event for us. Obviously it’s great to be showing so well with all four cars. … I like it. I like the dual. It’s fun. It’s good for the fans to race twice. It gives us a little bit of a rest, too, to qualify today, race tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti: “We aren’t bad… Sort of struggling for grip with both ends (of the car). We needed to set our fast time on Lap 2, but we were held up in traffic – blocked. By the time we were able to push, the tires were too worn out for what we needed. Aggravating to start ninth when you know that you should be a little higher up.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had it. We were in (a position to advance). We made some good progress working with our teammate Marco (Andretti) on the set up and we finally found something. We made some good progress with the DHL Honda, it made the car good. We were on a fast lap and set to advance when the red flag came out for (Josef) Newgarden and (the lap) was taken away. It’s just frustrating – kind of the way it’s been going for us, even when we do make some positive gains there’s a setback.”
Josef Newgarden: “I just hit the wall. It’s one of those street course errors that you can make. Obviously the car was good. I hate to do that to the team when we had a quick car. It’s a shame for today, hopefully we can get it patched up real quick and get the CFH car back on-track as good as it was. We will be all right for tomorrow. We had a strong car and the team’s solid. We just have to do a better job of keeping it off the walls.”
Qualification Photos via IndyCar