Grid Penalty Steals Detroit Pole From Dario
DETROIT – Dario Franchitti captured the Verizon P1 Award Friday afternoon when he set the fast time of 1:19.3311 around the 14-turn, 2.346-mile street course at Belle Isle Park in a Dallara/Honda for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.
Franchitti’s speed of 106.642 miles per hour came in the final two minutes of the Firestone “Fast Nine” but he won’t be on the pole when the green flag waves for Saturday’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Race 1. He has to drop to 11th because of an unapproved engine change at the 97th Indianapolis 500.
Pending any changes between now and Saturday afternoon’s race E.J. Viso will lead the field to the green flag.
Now, here’s the catch.
Friday’s qualification session set the starting lineup for Saturday afternoon’s race but there will be another qualifications Saturday morning that will split the field into two groups and determine the starting lineup for Sunday afternoon’s Doubleheader Race No. 2.
The pole winner will come from the fastest driver in either group with the drivers in that session forming the odd numbered – or inside – starting positions. The slower group will line up in the even-numbered – or outside positions – for Sunday.
So after qualifying already for a Saturday race the IndyCar drivers will take the same car onto the track for another qualification session before they even start the race they have already qualified for.
“I don’t want to sound like Debby Downer, but the rules don’t make any sense, with you getting locked into one group, all the odds getting locked into group one,” said 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who qualified fifth on Friday at 1:20.0030 (105.746 mph) in a Dallara/Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. “Yeah, very strange for sure. But you kind of roll with it and get going. It’s all part of it.”
Hunter-Reay wasn’t alone in his confusion of the qualification format for both races with the traditional “Fast Six” on Friday and a 30-minute “Have at it” session on Saturday morning for Sunday’s race.
“What if it rains a little bit for one group, then not for the other, you’re going to be screwed because the rules are not written the most clever way,” said Viso, the highest-qualified Chevrolet with a second-place time of 1:19.5572 (106.339 mph) for Andretti Autosport.
“Obviously that’s something new,” said pole winner Franchitti. “A little confusing I think for everybody. Yeah, we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It’s a different format of qualifying tomorrow, as well.
“Again, I’m really proud of the job the whole team did there to get that pole. Feeling pretty good about that and looking forward to racing again on this format of track. I think for several reasons we had to use the small layout. Roger Penske and Bud Denker and Charles Burns got back to the extended layout. It’s a lot of hard work gone into this venue. It’s really cool to work with a promoter that you point something out on the track walk and it’s literally done an hour later.”
In IndyCar’s grand experience this is how the first doubleheader race will line up and Friday’s “Fast Six” once again had an interesting mix of participants including four Honda drivers in that group.
Mike Conway, who earlier this week was named to a third Dallara/Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, was third quickest in his first IndyCar race since the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Conway’s time was 105.977 mph in a Dallara/Honda. James Jakes of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was fourth at 1:19.9897 (105.764 mph) in a Dallara/Honda with Hunter-Reay fifth and Honda’s Alex Tagliani sixth at 1:20.3514 (105.288 mph) for Bryan Herta Autosport.
It also marked the return of Ryan Briscoe, who competed in last Sunday’s 97th Indianapolis 500 for team owner Chip Ganassi, but will take over the No. 4 National Guard Dallara/Chevrolet for Panther Racing after J.R. Hildebrand was fired on Thursday. It was not a good day for Briscoe, however, as he spun in the morning practice session and was 22nd out of 25 cars in qualifications.