Simon Pagenaud on Pole at Detroit

Things are back to normal for Simon Pagenaud. He started the season with two runner-up finishes, then three straight race wins. After a 19th place finish in the Indianapolis 500, the Frenchman looks to be back in the groove. He earned the Pole position for Saturday’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit race, which is his 3rd Pole of the season.

By earning the Pole for tomorrow’s race, Pagenaud gains another championship point, extending his lead in the standings to 58 over defending champion Scott Dixon. His best lap in the Firestone Fast Six was 1:14.9166 seconds, good enough for the 5th Pole of his career. “The track is awesome,” said Pagenaud. “It’s a real street fight out there and the 22 car was amazing. We’re back with Hewlett Packard, they have a lot of people here this weekend, so I’m glad we could do well for them.” Simon’s first career victory came here in Detroit three years ago.

Team Penske earned the top three qualifying spots on Friday, with Helio Castroneves joining Simon on the front row. Juan Montoya starts alongside James Hinchcliffe in Row 2, with Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz in Row 3 with Dixon. Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Will Power, and Graham Rahal round out the top ten starters for Saturday’s race.

Qualification Results for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit (Race 1)

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Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 15th on Saturday, and Marco Andretti 19th. The two Andretti Autosport drivers apparently had a heated exchange on pit lane, after Hunter-Reay got in Marco’s way on the track. Some reports said it was intense as Michael Andretti had to separate the two, while other reports claim it was nothing more than a verbal disagreement. Either way, the team will need to figure something out for Saturday’s race. Their teammate and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi starts between them in 17th position.

Conor Daly fought some mechanical issues and will roll off 16th tomorrow. New ECR driver Spencer Pigot starts 21st in the No. 20 Chevrolet, and his teammate Josef Newgarden qualified in 14th spot. Rahal’s top ten start is impressive, when you consider what he had to go through this afternoon.

The race distance is 70 laps, which is 164.5 miles around the 2.3-mile 14-turn street circuit. Will Power and Juan Montoya won the Pole for last year’s races, and Carlos Munoz and Sebastien Bourdais are the defending race winners.

Coverage for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit begins at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday and Sunday.

Qualification Photos via IndyCar

Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “It was really good to be honest with you. Our Verizon Chevy has been pretty good. We actually struggled a lot this morning. You look at how fast our teammates were, I was like 13th or 15th this morning, so we pretty much changed everything on the car, and it worked well. I mean, we felt we needed to do a lot of changes, and it worked pretty well.”

Helio Castroneves: “The boys did an unbelievable job. Simon (Pagenaud) just nipped me over there. But when I looked at the time and it was just one hundredth (of a second), oh, man, I would have squeezed a little something out there. But great job for the entire organization. (Race Engineer) Jonathan (Diuguid) gave me a phenomenal car since we started here this morning. I can’t believe it. So close to get the number one spot. But that’s okay.”

James Hinchcliffe: “I’m really happy with qualifying. To get into the Firestone Fast Six two (road/street) races in a row is big for the Arrow Electronics team. Some of the other cars were really quick, but we managed to have enough there at the end of the second round and then a solid effort in the third round to put it on the second row. I’m very pleased with that and it gives us a good starting spot for tomorrow’s race, but it’s only half the job. We still have two races and another qualifying to go, but to come back here after missing last year and be able to get up to speed quickly, I can’t thank (race engineer) Allen (McDonald) and the crew enough. The Arrow car was great off the truck and it’s just allowing us to keep this momentum going.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the No. 7 SMP Racing and DOOM team worked really hard and we’re starting 12th in the first half of the field. This is a pretty difficult race so anything can happen, but we have a good starting point. The track is really bumpy and I think that affects everyone, it’s just very difficult to drive, but everybody is in the same boat. It’s going to be a survivor’s race, as always up here, but it’s going to be fun.”

Max Chilton: “We had a difficult qualifying session with this being just my first time here at this track. We had limited practice before the session, but I’m happy in that we improved a full second today. I think it’s just a matter of track time and experience at a place like Detroit, and we’ll get there and hopefully start moving up for the race as we get more laps under our belt in the Gallagher car.”

Scott Dixon: “We had a bit of a throttle sensor issue that hampered us, so I think there is still some good speed left in the Target car, so that is encouraging. It was a good start to the weekend for us and the team, so we’ll go back and do some more homework and hope to improve our position for the race tomorrow.”

Tony Kanaan: “The No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet was definitely a Firestone Fast Six car, but I made a mistake on my fast lap that lost us a tenth of a second, which was enough to put me out of the top six. On the bright side though, we’ll have better tires for the race tomorrow when these other guys are using another set of reds in the last qualifying session. Great job by the team getting the car ready for qualifying. We struggled quite a bit in practice this morning, so I’m just happy with the major improvements we made from practice to qualifying.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “It’s just disappointing. The car was really good on blacks (primary tire) and I felt like we could have done something, but on the reds (alternate tire) it just went away from us as soon as I left the pits. There was nothing under me, no rear stability and the car felt like it was floating. Unfortunately, there is no testing, so you can’t work with the reds. It’s just frustrating. The Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team will just have to regroup, hit the reset button and see what we can come up with for tomorrow’s race.”

Will Power: “We were so quick this morning in practice than in qualifying. The Verizon Chevy touched the wall early on in qualifying, so we had to change the suspension. It was pretty intense out there. Wasn’t quite the result we had hoped for. We’ll just have to go into the race tomorrow and see what we can do.”

Takuma Sato: “It’s a little bit frustrating qualifying session for us because we have a pretty good car at the beginning of the qualifying session. We lost speed on the alternate (compound – red) tires which we couldn’t figure out. We need to better understand this and hopefully tomorrow we get it right.”

Graham Rahal: “Getting a good balance is a challenging thing here. We had an unfortunate situation in qualifying as well. The bumps are so bad here that my left side seat belt actually came undone in both rounds, so we had to be pretty cautious because of that. I don’t know why that’s happening but the bumps between Turns 2 and 3 are so severe, the seatbelt is having an issue. We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again. My (car) balance on the black Firestone is really good, but my balance on the reds just isn’t very good so we’ve got a little bit of work to do there. Ultimately, on the blacks on the long run, the United Rentals car is very, very competitive so I feel pretty good going into tomorrow.”

Conor Daly: “We had a bit of an issue on our first run and it ruined the whole qualifying session for us, unfortunately. I couldn’t get a feel for the car at all in my first outing and I had to come in and we reset a lot of things. When we went back out, we were gaining time exponentially, but it was already too late. It’s such a small window and if you have one issue you’ve already set yourself back. It’s a real shame because the car feels great, we just didn’t get to use it.”

Gabby Chaves: “It was an interesting qualifying session. It was the first time back for me on a street course this year and I was really pushing, giving it 100 percent. I probably pushed a little too hard in some places and made some mistakes and I lost some time from it. I still think we have some work to do. We’re putting our heads together now and seeing what we can do. It will be interesting to see the strategies that fall our way and what we can do to gain positions in the race tomorrow.”

Spencer Pigot: “It’s good to be back in a car, it is a lot earlier than I expected so that’s good. I’m having a good time with the team, but it was a tough day. This track is pretty difficult so there’s a lot to learn. It’s a new track and I’m in a new car, so I’m just trying to get up to speed with everything and figure it all out.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was a tough day. I apologize to my guys, I set us back for tomorrow with that run. We had a good car and probably should have been fast enough to get into the top six today, I just tagged the wall and that caused the tire pressure to go down on the right rear. I wasn’t able to get my optimum lap on the reds. It’s tougher when you do something like that, it was my fault. Now we have to get it right for tomorrow and I’m sure we’ll have a car that can fight for the win.”

Simon Pagenaud: “The track is awesome. It’s a real street fight out there. The No. 22 car was amazing with HP (Hewlett Packard), back on board with us. A lot of them are here this weekend so I’m glad we could do well for them. The team’s just doing incredible and I’m glad we could keep the momentum going. Last week wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but we’re back. We were really strong during the race at the 500 but it is what it is, you can’t always be up there. But, certainly, an awesome feeling today. What a cool track.”

Carlos Munoz: “I brushed the wall in Q2, and that held the car a lot for the Fast Six. We tried some stuff for the Fast Six, and it didn’t work, but it’s my first Fast Six with that like normal conditions, so just really happy. I was the best of the team, so I think it’s a good position to start the race. I was here last year on the wet, and I think it’s a good position to start the race. I think we still have work to do. I think I got everything out of the car. I think that was the limit. We saw that Team Penske was really strong here. We’ll have to work a little bit more for tomorrow, practice.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “There’s an accordion affect in qualifying sometimes. You get yourself into a gap, you make your home in that gap and then everybody’s just got to go. (Sebastien) Bourdais, for some reason, went five seconds off the pace on that first lap. I have to understand why he did it; I’ve got to understand why it was necessary. I’ll go talk to him and figure it out – he has plenty of experience so it’s strange that would happen. But it cost me, and it cost Marco. It’s going to be hard in traffic tomorrow. The track a bit rougher than it was last year, but we’ll talk about it as a group and figure something out for the DHL team.”

Jack Hawksworth: “There’s not much to say, because we had a problem with the steering so that was all she wrote. Obviously I’ve started at the front here and finished at the back, and I’ve started in the back and finished somewhere near the front, so we’ll be starting at the back tomorrow and hopefully we can sort it out and go forward.”

Charlie Kimball: “Frankly I’m really happy with the bounce back from the No. 83 team. We had a few different gremlins this morning – just things we haven’t ever seen before that we needed to deal with before qualifying. Overall I’m very happy to come away starting on the fourth row. I think we have a good opportunity to make moves forward during tomorrow’s race and hopefully we can learn something from today’s qualifying that we can take away for qualifying for Sunday’s race.”

Alexander Rossi: “(Qualifying) really surprises me. Based on where the teammates were in practice, I thought we’d be looking pretty good in qualifying. I felt really comfortable in that session in the NAPA car, compared to where I was in practice. It’s disappointing. To be a group toward the bottom again, is not great. We need to keep working.”

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