A familiar face captured the Pole for tomorrow’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Toronto. Will Power earned his fifth pole of the season today, and the 41st of his career, which puts him ahead of Rick Mears for fifth place on the all-time list. Power’s lap was a quick one, at 59.4280 seconds. Five cars were under the one minute mark.
There were many Penske cars up front on Saturday. They took the top three starting spots for tomorrow as Simon Pagenaud and Juan Montoya will join Power up front. Last week’s winner at Texas, Scott Dixon, will start fourth. Row 3 belongs to Sebastien Bourdais and Luca Filippi. Helio Castroneves was fastest in practice earlier in the day, but just missed the Firestone Fast Six. He will start seventh tomorrow, which is the worst starting position for him this season. He has started in the top five in each race this season.
It wasn’t a good day of qualifying for Andretti Autosport. There cars were 13th (Munoz), 16th (Hunter-Reay), and 18th (Andretti) on Saturday. For Hunter-Reay, it’s just been a bad place in general. His last four finishes here at Toronto are 18th, 19th, 21st, and 14th. In eight races at Toronto, Marco has completed 630 of 631 laps, but has never led a lap in the race.
Conor Daly is filling in for James Hinchcliffe once again in the SPM car this weekend. He’ll roll off 19th tomorrow. Rodolfo Gonzalez spun and made contact in Turn 1, and will start last in tomorrow’s race for Dale Coyne Racing. Qualifying is very important here, as 21 of the last 30 races here have been won by someone starting in the top three. Seven of those were won by the Pole sitter.
Rain may be in the forecast for tomorrow’s race, which could level the playing field. The race distance is 85 laps, which is 149.175 miles around the 1.755-mile 11-turn street circuit. Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves won the Pole for last year’s races. Bourdais and Mike Conway are the defending race winners.
Coverage for the Honda Indy Toronto begins at 3 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Below are highlights from today’s qualifying session, courtesy of IndyCar:
Will Power: “I was just hoping I would be like fourth or third, something like that. I did not expect to be on pole, so I’m very happy.” (About how tough the track is to drive): “You’ve got to drive around here. It’s all man-handling because you’ve got those slippery surfaces in the middle of the corners, so you’ve got to be on the wheel a lot.” (About whether there will be passing opportunities in the race): “There is going to be a lot of moving into Turn 3 and obviously into Turn 1 there’s always a lot of action. Starting on pole is great. It keeps me out of the mess early on. Obviously Indy car races are never straightforward, so it’s just awesome to get the pole because I really wasn’t expecting it, so I was really happy with that. It’s a long day tomorrow, we’ll see what we can do.” (About his hand injury): “It’s sore but it’s fine. You’ve just got to mentally switch it off when you hit a bump. It’s fine. It’s cracked or fractured, so I can’t do any more damage to it. That’s the good thing.”
Juan Montoya: “It’s OK. We’ve been doing a good job. Today I made too many mistakes at the end. Thought I had a really good car, didn’t put good luck together when it counted. Still qualified third, so I’m happy with that.”
Conor Daly: “It was just a pretty hectic session. We got the yellow in the last lap, which feels usual with my luck. So sadly, we didn’t get that last lap, which would’ve been better. The No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was feeling better with each lap, but I’ve got so much to learn and I need to learn faster, so it’s a shame.”
James Jakes: “I’m a little bit disappointed, really. I think we had a better pace than that in the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda but we were using an extra set of reds in the first round of qualifying. I think that cost us a little bit, but we’re not in a bad position fortomorrow to start the race. It looks like it’s going to rain and anything can happen so we’ll just try to keep our nose clean and go from there.”
Sebastian Saavedra: “I’m extremely disappointed that we weren’t able to advance out of the first round because of what happened. I’ll take this as a learning experience that just proves there is no room for errors. I knew we had a lap time that would most likely move me onto the next round. So, on the last lap I went behind the barrier to get out of traffic. I did not know that a yellow would come out because of what I did, but it ultimately ended our day. We’ll just focus on our race car now. We have an amazing car, so I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “This weekend it feels like I’ve been driving a dinosaur. It’s been a little bit rough out there. It’s been a rough start. We had an electrical issue at the start of the weekend, had to come in and change batteries every two laps. We made wholesale changes even through qualifying. Each session we’ve been changing a lot. It’s not been a smooth weekend for us. But I think the car has potential speed. We were up pretty good on the last lap, and I cooked it in a couple spots. We’ll see how it goes. But Chevy is doing a fantastic job– dominance right now. It’s cool to be driving a Chevy right now.”
Tony Kanaan: “I think the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet was much quicker than our starting position shows. We definitely had a top six car, but in that second round we just weren’t ever able to get up to speed and get the fast lap at the right time on the tires. Obviously I wish we could have finished at least in the top six, but it just didn’t happen and we’ll just have to work with where we’re at and make some big moves tomorrow in the race.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “When the car hits the ground and takes off, it’s pretty difficult to keep control. I didn’t do a really good job. It’s a shame. The guys did a good job. The car is there. It’s just difficult to be accurate and not make mistakes. At least we made the Fast Six. We put ourselves on the map to have a decent run tomorrow. Conditions seem to be forecasted pretty complicated, so we’ll see.
Takuma Sato: “I was satisfied with my lap but it’s just so close, the field is so tight. We only needed five-hundredths to make it to the Firestone Fast Six, and I was temporarily fifth until the very few last corners in the final seconds and then two guys overtook me. It is what it is and that’s racing. I think the ABC Supply boys did a great job to put everything together. Yesterday it was positive but this morning it was a little bit disconnected feeling but we came back strong. It’s a shame it wasn’t a little bit higher but P8, I’ll take it. It’s a good place to start, and the weather looks good, so hopefully we have a sweet Sunday afternoon.”
Graham Rahal: “All in all, the Rousseau Metal car has been pretty good this weekend. We have just got to keep working hard. We are trying to find a way to get the car to do one particular thing a little more consistently. It’s kind of throwing everything at me, which is fine, but, for the race, we would like to settle the rear down a little. We are struggling to make a little bit of everything better but the rear (of the car) is where I would like to improve for the race. We need to keep the tires underneath us, which has been one of our strengths this year. For us to be able to beat the Chevys up front, we’re going to need some good rear tire wear.”
Luca Filippi: “Our guys have to work so much during the month of May. As the drivers, we didn’t deliver what we’re supposed to do. I think it’s now time to turn the season around. Today I think we all did a good job. Also we had an issue in Group 1. The guys were so quick to fix the car, give me the opportunity to run again. Very pleased with that. Really thankful to them. I think the performance has been good since the beginning of the season. (This is the) first time I go to a racetrack that I raced before. You know what to expect, you know the lines, braking zones. Makes everything easier. I just hope to have more experience to go faster everywhere.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I don’t like to be 11th in the championship, but it is what it is. It’s a new era for me. It’s definitely a new era for Team Penske with the fourth car so we’re building as a team. Qualifying has not been an issue. We’ve been in the fast six every session since the beginning of the season, but its executing in the end where things haven’t gone our way. But sometimes you have a season like that. And it was a good time to take some risk with the tire choice, which we did. Thanks to my engineers for pushing me in that direction and I just pushed it too hard. I think we had it, but just made a little mistake when the tires were at their peak. But I’m happy with front row. I’m happy for Team Penske.”
Marco Andretti: “Circumstance didn’t go our way. We didn’t get to do a full run on reds (alternate Firestone red tires) due to the red flag. My out lap on reds was awesome so I think the Dr Pepper car would have been well in the top 10 – maybe in the Firestone Fast Six.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s kind of just been the way this season has been rolling, but we’re proud to be representing DHL here and looking for a good weekend. I thought we had a good shot at advancing there – the car felt good. I just never really got a lap to bank and then the red (flag) came out as we just put on new (Firestone) red tires. It’s the way it is sometime. You just have to deal with it and keep soldiering on. We’re going to go out and hopefully have a great race tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden: “Qualifying wasn’t what we were hoping for. We just struggled and didn’t quite get what we needed. We should have a good racecar though. I am excited to work with the guys more and see what we can get out of it. We have a long race day ahead of us tomorrow. It’s hard to complete a race around here without any incidents. As long as we stay clean, we should be good to go.”
Qualification Photos via IndyCar