Today marks the second time this season that Juan Pablo Montoya will start from the pole position in the field. Both instances were also the result of weather conditions that cancelled/discontinued qualifying sessions for the Verizon IndyCar Series. His first pole position in 2015 was over the second race weekend of the year, at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, LA. As you might remember, we had monsoon like conditions on qualifying day and it made the completion of a safe qual session impossible. Montoya was fresh off his victory at the season kickoff in St. Petersburg and therefore led the field to green at NOLA.
The format of today’s qualifying was for two groups to go out and run for 12 minute sessions. That format was changed by extending the sessions to 20 minutes each, with a guaranteed 5 minutes of green flag time. Group 1 was able to complete their round, with Sage Karam clocking the fastest time. This had guaranteed Sage a spot on the front row and at the conclusion of Group 2’s session, it would be determined if his run was good enough for the Verizon P1 Award.
Group 2 ran for 3 minutes and 2 seconds before they were red-flagged for track conditions due to the continuous downpour on Belle Isle. The drivers stayed in their cars, the crews did their best to keep them dry and the sweeper trucks hit the road in an attempt to move some of the standing water aside. Unfortunately these efforts were futile and the session was discontinued at 12:26pm.
While some have questioned how IndyCar intends to get a race in today if they are red-flagging qualifying, Montoya explained it with logic. He stated that IndyCar made their best effort to get qualifying in, but it was a good decision to call it for conditions and standing water. He noted that we have to think about the teams – what would happen if someone crashed in a qualifying attempt? They might not have time to repair the car or switch to a back up in time for the race. Great point.
The field will line up by entrant points for Race 2 of the Dual in Detroit this afternoon, with Juan Pablo Montoya taking the helm. He noted that while drivers always want to start from the front, these conditions can make them feel like they’re “a guinea pig” when leading. Both he and his Team Penske teammate, Will Power (who will start next to him in Row 1), have faith that they’ll be able to get the race in later this afternoon. They made mention of how it’s going to start wet but should taper off and end dry.
Strategy will absolutely play a role, if not the biggest role, in clinching victory on Belle Isle today. The amount and length of pit stops based on fuel efficiency and potential changes in tire selection will make a difference. Everyone in the field is starting on alternate Firestone tires today, except for Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing, No. 11), your Race 1 winner Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport, No. 26), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport, No. 28), Rodolfo Gonzalez (Dale Coyne Racing, No. 18), and Tristan Vautier (Dale Coyne Racing, No. 19), who have opted to start the race on primary Firestones. Timing of their pit stops around yellows, because it seems inevitable that we will see yellow flags today, will also come into play.
Even though Chip Ganassi Racing driver of the No. 8, Karam will not be starting from pole as initially anticipated, we will have another young gun starting pretty high up in the field. Conor Daly, who is driving the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport No. 5 Honda this weekend in James Hinchcliffe’s absence as he recovers from an Indy 500 practice accident, will start from P10. Daly is the highest starting rookie today, Gabby Chaves (Bryan Herta Autosport, No. 98) coming in next with a P18 spot.
As far as the other highest starting Hondas: Graham Rahal for RLL Racing in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda will start from P5 and is looking to have a solid finish today after yesterday’s tangle with Tony Kanaan & James Jakes ended his day early on Lap 6. Marco Andretti had a better Race 1 experience, finishing on the podium with a P2 finish and he’ll start from P7 when we go green today, fighting to bring the Merchant First & Snapple-sponsored No. 27 Honda into Victory Circle.
I will be covering the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit from Belle Isle, MI all weekend for Live Full Throttle. Stay connected: