Graham Rahal scored his first IndyCar pole position in eight years, when he set second fastest time in today’s qualifying sessions but saw Helio Castroneves lose his fastest lap for not slowing for a yellow flag.
With IndyCar’s usual qualifying format put aside, the field was divided in half and each group of 11 got 12mins on track. Rahal’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda topped the first group with a 1min13.9681sec lap on his final attempt to beat Indy 500 Takuma Sato’s Andretti Autosport-Honda by 0.0747sec.
Behind came James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda, followed by the three Penske-Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden who made a tactical blunder by starting on reds when the track was at its slowest and then switching to blacks. The remainder of the frontrunners did the reverse and Penske paid the price.
The fourth Penske entry, which was in the second half of the session, benefited from that knowledge and so Castroneves duly delivered a time a tenth under Rahal’s best. However, officials ruled that the #3 didn’t slow sufficiently for Mikhail Aleshin’s spun Schmidt Peterson machine, and so he lost his fast time, relegating him to second on the grid, and all others in the session to the even-numbered qualifying positions.
Thus the grid will line up with Rahal ahead of Castroneves, followed by Sato alongside Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi who did a fine job recovering from his shunt yesterday.
The third row will comprise Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon in the first of the Chip Ganassi Racing-Hondas, the fourth will see reigning series champion Pagenaud alongside the impressive Max Chilton, and the fifth puts Newgarden beside a third Ganassi, that of Charlie Kimball.
Row six will contain a pair of series champions Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Spencer Pigot sideswiped the wall during his run, but by virtue of being in the faster group, will start ahead of his Ed Carpenter Racing teammate JR Hildebrand, despite his best being 0.4sec slower.
F1 and Formula E refugee Esteban Gutierrez did an excellent job to finish just 1.65sec off Rahal’s best, and outqualify new Dale Coyne Racing-Honda teammate Ed Jones by 0.2sec.