Constantly changing weather made for wild qualifying for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. 23-year-old Colombian Sebastian Saavedra won his first IndyCar pole when Ryan Hunter-Reay ended the final qualifying session early with a wreck in the last turn.
Rain fell off and on throughout qualifying, including a pair of heavy downpours. The Firestone Fast Six session was delayed for several minutes because of puddles on the track. Saavedra won the pole in his AFS KVAFS Racing Chevrolet with a circuit around the 14 turn, 2.4 mile road course in 1:23.8822. That was about 13 seconds slower than the times set in practice in dry conditions.
"I love the rain,” said Saavedra. “It was crazy at first because we didn't know what to expect from the track: if it was going to be wet, if it was going to be dry. We were comfortable yesterday. As it got hotter, we just needed to work a little bit more - especially with the rain. We made a huge leap this morning and then the whole session was just weird. It started to rain and went from wet, to dry, to super dry, to super wet. I loved it."
Hunter-Reay also loved it until he splashed through a puddle in turn 14, spun and backed into the wall on the main straightaway. He held the provisional pole when he hit the wall, but lost his best two laps as a penalty for causing a red flag.
"It could have been worse,” said Hunter-Reay, who is the only driver to advance to the Firestone Fast Six at every race this season. “We are still starting third. When it's wet like that, you are just hydroplaning, and at times you can catch it and at other times you can't. Fine line between getting the lap right and doing what happened there. It's all part of it. It's definitely a set back because we have to put the car back together, but we're still starting up front for what looks like is going to be a sunny day tomorrow."
Rookie Jack Hawksworth from Bradford, England, starts on the surprising front row next to Saavedra for Saturday’s standing start 82 lap race (3:50 p.m.). Like Saavedra, the second position is Hawksworth’s best career starting spot. Row two includes Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud’s lap of 1:09.6716 from Round 1 in dry conditions set a track record for the renovated and repaved Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
IndyCar points leader Will Power and reigning series champion Scott Dixon start in row three.
"I know how it feels when you get your first pole,” said Power. “It feels pretty cool. You feel a little bit of pressure going into the race. Man, there are no bad drivers in this series. That's why you see such a mixed-up qualifying session week in, week out. They're all good. They're all good racers. They can all win races. I think they're going to do a good job and we'll see what happens. We'll know tomorrow. "