Helio Castroneves achieved his first series career win on Belle Isle back in 2000. Today he starts from the pole position in Dual I of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Castroneves out-raced James Hinchcliffe, Jack Hawksworth, Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe and Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya in the Firestone Fast 6 competition to attain the Verizon P1 award earlier today.
This will be the third time Castroneves starts on pole at Belle Isle and certainly he will be going for his third win here this weekend. Three seems to be his number right now – literally and figuratively. He races the #3 Team Penske Chevy, he ran third fastest in both practices yesterday, and not to mention – he is third in the points race right now. The only two drivers ahead of Castroneves in points, are his Penske teammate Will Power and Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. Interestingly, these two “front-runners” both had issues during their initial segment runs in qualifying this morning, keeping them from advancing to the Top 12 and therefore out of contention for the Firestone Fast 6 or the Verizon P1 Award.
Hunter-Reay found himself in the wall of Turn 11 about 4 minutes in to the 10 minute session, he ended up returning to the pits under his own power but got out of the car and called it soon after due to damage on the left rear of his #28 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Power had issues handling the #12 Chevy and explained that he and his team at Penske need to figure out a different set up prior to race time. We will see what they come up with in just a couple hours and whether he will be able to fight his way through the field and challenge for a win.
This Firestone Fast 6 was unexpected for sure, but that’s what I love about it. Predictability is the last word you would use to describe this current Verizon IndyCar Series – the qualifying format keeps things interesting, entertaining and safe… not to mention that it gives everyone an opportunity to show what they’re made of, in a sense.
Hinchcliffe was trying to show his worth by attaining that elusive pole position for the first time in his Verizon IndyCar Series career but was left with the “runner-up” position yet again. He’ll get it one of these days, I have no doubt. He started from P2 last weekend at the Indianapolis 500 & he immediately took the lead on the front stretch and into Turn 1, and continued to lead for quite a few laps at the beginning of the race. Hinch got caught up in a three-wide-into-Turn-1 situation later in the day, ending his stint as well as Ed Carpenter’s when Townsend Bell came down too low on the track, leaving no where for Carpenter to move except into Hinchcliffe, who by my opinion had the lower line. I honestly think it was a moment where the only person aware that they were three-wide in that fraction of a second was Carpenter. But, that’s racing and thankfully, no one was injured. I know I’m not alone in hoping to see Hinch finish today, and preferably strong since the other two May races have been DNF’s for the driver of the #27 UFD Honda.
You have to remember, as with most races in this series, just about anyone is capable of winning it… especially with this Class of 2014. Other than those I already mentioned, I think two to keep an eye on are Mike Conway & Jack Hawksworth. Conway, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing, is a known beast on road courses and street circuits. He’s normally battling for P1 or very close to it in the top portion of the field. I think that Hawksworth, driving the #98 for Bryan Herta Autosport in his rookie year with the Verizon IndyCar Series, is showing signs of a dominant road & street course career ahead of him. He was running very well at the season opener in St. Pete’s before he was taken out in an accident not directly involving him. He also qualified 2nd in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this month, going on to finish in P7 – his first Top 10 career finish. The kid has got that certain something when it comes to these kind of tracks and I look forward to seeing what he does during the race this afternoon. Given the numbers he was clocking this morning and in practice yesterday, I think Hawksworth has something up his sleeve and we haven’t seen anything yet…
Stay up to date on everything happening with the Verizon IndyCar Series at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit by bookmarking my author page, liking my public page on Facebook & following me on Twitter! I’ll be here all weekend bringing you live updates and fun event details!