By Tony DiZinno of Trackside Online…
The Verizon IndyCar Series prides itself on parity and today showcased that once again, with Marco Andretti becoming the seventh different polesitter in as many races to start the 2018 season.
The driver of the No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian uncorked a 1:14.8514 on his final lap to score his fifth pole position of his career, and first in nearly five years since Pocono in July, 2013.
All four have been on ovals prior to this, so his first road or street course pole comes ahead of his 207th career start.
The qualifying recap and notes are below.
Dixon tops Group 1 running, but doubts time will hold
Qualifying for race one begins with drastically cooler temperatures. Per the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, we are at only 57 degrees ambient and 73 on track to start Group 1’s session.
Last year’s best time for qualifying in race one was a 1:13.9681 by Graham Rahal.
Max Chilton and Santino Ferrucci start on the Firestone red alternates while the remaining drivers all start on blacks.
Alexander Rossi is first in the 1:17s at 1:17.9783 in the No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda.
Will Power supplants that at 1:17.1063. Power has more than 50 career poles and looks to add to that on the streets of Detroit this weekend.
Rossi answers with a 1:16.7180 and Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal also dip into the 1:16.9 bracket.
Chilton, Zach Veach and Charlie Kimball are back in with just over five minutes remaining in the session.
Power drops the hammer at 1:15.9586 on the blacks, but he also has a moment exiting Turn 6 as he whitewalls the left side tires.
We expect most of the Group 1 runners to pit and come in to swap onto the reds.
Order before the final three minutes is Power, Rossi, Rahal, Pigot, Dixon, Newgarden, Ferrucci, Chilton, King, Veach and Kimball.
Per the Dale Coyne Racing team, Ferrucci has been assessed a drive through penalty for a pit and exit violation.
Dixon jumps up to second at 1:16.0715. King jumps up to sixth at 1:16.9075.
Dixon then goes 1:15.4186 on the reds to vault to the top by 0.5400 of a second over Power. There’s about 30 seconds to go at this point.
Rossi then leaps up to second at 1:15.8766, which drops Power to third in this group. He improves to within 0.0760 of a second off Dixon, only at 1:15.4946.
Dixon will lead this group and will have a front row starting position with a championship point. But will this time hold for pole?
He tells INDYCAR Radio’s Ryan Myrehn it’s always tough around this place and he actually thought he should have got a little more.
Group 1 Times
Andretti snatches pole at the final moment
Rene Binder at Juncos Racing is the only driver to start on reds but the rest of the field starts on blacks.
Marco Andretti and Robert Wickens go into the 1:16.3 and 1:16.5 range to start on blacks, so they’re about half a second off Power’s black tire time from the previous session.
Not for long though as Wickens goes 1:15.7043, a time already better than Power’s on blacks and a clear sign the track is rubbering in.
It takes a bit of time to do with other series’ rubber from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Trans-Am and SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks having been laid down this morning and the Firestone rubber coming in more for the second group.
With four-plus minutes to go, the field is into the pits for reds.
Wickens, Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Andretti, Pagenaud, Sato, Jones, Leist, Kanaan, Bourdais, Chaves and Binder is the order before the final few minutes and the updated times once the field goes to reds.
Wickens only needs to find three tenths on the reds for his time to jump Dixon’s and move Group 2 to the inside positions, and score the pole position.
Hinchcliffe is first to post a time at 1:15.5402, which leapfrogs his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate.
Hunter-Reay, despite trailing Wickens closely on track, goes to 1:15.3351 which moves him to the provisional pole.
Marco Andretti then goes 1:15.3286, which beats Hunter-Reay.
We start a flurry of checking when Andretti last got a pole, but Wickens renders that moot for the moment at 1:15.3267, which moves him back.
Not for long though.
Can Andretti beat it? He does!! A 1:14.8514. This will be his first ever road or street course pole as his previous four poles have all come on ovals (Pocono Raceway, The Milwaukee Mile twice and Auto Club Speedway).
Sato has been penalized for causing a local yellow in this session. He will lose his fastest lap. He had been fourth in the session at 1:15.392.
Unofficial second group times are below, with Sato’s final time to be determined.
Group 2 Times