This year’s IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway changed from a 3-day event as it’s been for the past 3 seasons, to a 2-day event. At the end of day 1, we saw Power dominating the field across every on-track session.
The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy is no stranger to success on the IMS road course. He won the pole and the race in 2015 and is looking to achieve the same this weekend,
“…Really cool to start at the front again. Really determined to have a good race. I’ve been knocking on the door every week, and one is going to go our way here soon. You put yourself in that position, it’ll happen. That’s the plan.”
The Team Penske sweep of Verizon P1 Awards this season is still strong, today’s achievement marking the team’s 5th pole of the year and 250th IndyCar pole position.
Power topped both practice sessions earlier in the day but he wasn’t the only car with impressive lap times. He broke his own lap record in Round 3 of qualifying with a 1:07.7044, but 9 other cars also broke last year’s record of 1:08.6746, including 5 Hondas. Keeping in mind that there have not been any changes to the aerokits since last season, this fact continues to speak to the power improvements Honda has made over the past year.
Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Ganassi Honda) was the highest qualifying Honda with a P4 placement on the grid for tomorrow’s contest. He is also the only driver that has advanced to the Firestone Fast 6 in every race with that qualifying format this season,
“We were kind of best in class and trying to close the gap, but it’s obviously tough with Penske and the driver lineup they have – always extremely tough to beat. But yeah, excited for tomorrow. Weather looks fantastic, and hopefully we can put on a good show.”
Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ DCR Honda) was the next highest qualifying Honda with a P6 finish, the highest starting position for Bourdais in 2017.
The other strongest Hondas included three Andretti Autosport machines – the No. 27 of Marco Andretti, the No. 98 of Alexander Rossi, and the No. 28 of Ryan Hunter-Reay. This was a strong showing for the team who is looking for an upswing after all four cars DNF’ed in 2 of the first 4 rounds of the season. Another Ganassi Honda also broke last year’s track record, and that was the No. 8 Gallagher-sponsored car of Max Chilton.
The remaining four of the ten record-breaking cars were all Team Penske – Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya who in his season debut, qualified P5 today driving the Fitzgerald Glider Kits livery on the No. 22 Chevy. Montoya spoke about his return to the cockpit and why the non-full-time ride for 2017 actually fit his life perfectly,
“It’s fun because there’s no pressure. I normally don’t really care too much about points anyway, but this time a little less.
What I had with Team Penske for now and in the future I thought was the best opportunity, and actually it allowed me to really focus on my son. The week after the 500, I’m flying to Europe for two months to be with him and he’s running the European Championship there… I just want to build him up, and the time was perfect.”
Montoya seemed light-hearted in his post-qualifying press conference, joking that in comparison to guys like Dixon, he’s still an Indy 500 rookie, with only 4 runnings under his belt. (Nevermind that half of those ended in victory!) It’s nice to see drivers come back and enjoy the Month of May for exactly what it should be – fun. That’s certainly how the fans see it and how many members of the media who have been around Indy car racing their whole lives, see it.
I hate that I’m having to miss being there in person this weekend but love that the human side of this series will always be apparent to me, even when covering race events remotely… it’s my favorite aspect of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
On a personal note, I just want to say thanks to everyone for the support and kind words while I heal up at home and cover the IndyCar Grand Prix weekend from a distance, here in Cleveland.
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Photos c/o IndyCar – Joe Skibinski & Chris Owens