The different format of this morning’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit – Dual II qualifications yielded a red flag, record breaking runs and even some premature celebration. The first group had a relatively uneventful 12 minutes on track, included Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe led the group with the fastest lap, clocking in at 1:16.3739 and breaking the current track set-ups record. That record was only a day old, as Helio Castroneves had set it on Saturday with a time of 1:17.2597.
Hinchcliffe has yet to attain that first pole position in his IndyCar career – and today looked to be the day he would finally do it. Fittingly, he was 27 seconds away from the Verizon P1 Award when Castroneves grabbed the top spot. The checkered flag flew, Castroneves returned to the pits, looked to be in a celebratory mode as he removed the steering wheel and jumped out of his car. He was about two hand-slaps in with his team members when it was announced that AJ Foyt Racing driver, Takuma Sato had just taken the checkered himself… with a faster time! Sato became the new record holder for the track, completing a lap in just 1:16.1371! Fractions of a second… that’s what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about.
This is the second pole position for Sato this season – his first one coming on the Streets of St. Petersburg, to open the season back in March. He explained, “I’m extremely pleased for the team… we were able to use the race (yesterday) as a test session and we learned a lot.” Watching Sato lead the field to green will certainly be another test in how much they learned – I expect to see great things from him this afternoon.
If I were to sum these morning qualifications up simply, I would say… Sato celebrated, Castroneves settled for P3 and Hinchcliffe became a bridesmaid. Again.
Metaphorically of course.
Hinchcliffe’s teammate and current Indianapolis 500 Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, would be more than happy with that “bridesmaid” role this weekend – given that he has run into a streak of bad luck in the past 30 hours or so. He had a great run during practice sessions on Friday but qualifying did not go his way on Saturday for the first race of the weekend and then he made contact with the wall on the last lap of the race itself. This morning, he made contact again when the left rear of his car got too loose to recover. The wall was pretty unforgiving but he was able to make it back to pit lane without assistance. There was a fair amount of debris on the track so the short qualifications session was red-flagged for 5 minutes while debris was cleared. Ryan Hunter-Reay took the optimistic approach to today’s setback, “Totally my fault. Hopefully we can do what Will did yesterday. He came from way back to win the race.”
This afternoon is sure to be another surprising race with unexpected incidents and nail-biting moments. We’ll do what we always do – we’ll pray for a very safe but highly entertaining race from these guys. That’s a really hard balance to achieve, but race weekend after race weekend, they pull it off!
Make sure to tune into your local ABC station to watch the race live at 3:30PM (EST).
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