The front row for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will look very interesting Saturday.
Indianapolis, Ind. – Sebastian Saavedra splashed to the pole position for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis during a memorable qualifying session that featured ever-changing weather conditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon.
For Saavedra, the 23-year old Colombia native scored his first career Verizon IndyCar Series pole in 42 attempts.
Saavedra sped around the 14-turn, 2.349-mile road course at a speed of 104.675 miles per hour or a time of 1:23.8822 seconds. He drove the Chevrolet-powered KV AFS Racing entry.
Said the pole winner, “This is huge and it is a great way to start the month of May. We have been pushing ourselves to get this opportunity, and when we saw a great opportunity, we took it. I am so proud of this team.
“This is the top level and we have been leading laps and things, but our strategies have not been working out. This is the point that makes you get addicted even more. We are building something from scratch at KVS Racing and hopefully soon we can show more.”
Saavedra admitted he had hoped for a top-five in dry conditions but when it rained, his hopes soared. “When it started to rain, I got a big smile in my helmet as I enjoy rain very much.”
When the first of the three segments of qualifications started, the track was dry but sprinkles of rain started and ended just as abruptly. Segment two featured hard rain throughout and the third and final segment had to be delayed due to adverse weather. When run, the track was wet and all six cars did well until Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed hard exiting the 14th turn, bringing out the red flag and ending the segment with approximately two minutes remaining.
Rookie Jack Hawksworth put the BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian Honda on the outside of the front row with a speed of 104.431 mph. Noted Hawksworth, “I think everybody had a lot more on the table. I think the fastest lap was going to be the last one. Everybody was pretty quick.”
He is guardedly optimistic about being in the front row. “I’m actually quite excited, as we have a clear track ahead. If we can get (Sebastian) Saavedra at the first corner, we’ll try and pull away and see what we can do,” he said.
Discussing his crash, Hunter-Reay commented, “Every time through there (turn 14), I almost lost it. I had a few big moments there. In qualifying, you got to go for it and in the wet, you’re always going for it. There’s a very fine line between stepping over in the wet and throwing it off. Unfortunately, I dinged up the right rear but I will be fixed up by tomorrow.”
Will Power and Scott Dixon recorded the fifth and sixth fastest speeds to round out the Firestone Fast Six qualifiers. Sebastien Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya and Indy 500 winners Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Rookie Mikhail Aleshin lost his two fastest laps in round 1 due to qualifying interference with Bourdais. The two had tangled at the recent Barber race.
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be telecast by ABC live on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.