Sato Wins Belle Isle Pole, Hunter-Reay In Back
DETROIT – More trouble struck 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay when he crashed for the second day in a row, this time in Sunday morning’s qualification session for the second doubleheader race at Belle Isle – the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit.
Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing won his second pole of the season with a record lap at 1:16.1371, a new lap record for the 2.35-mile track layout.
“I’m extremely pleased for the team,” Sato said. “Yesterday was a tough day with the gearbox problem, but we were able to use the race as a test session and we learned a lot. We found something that we needed to solve and team and engineers did a great job getting everything together. The first out lap was not necessarily good. It was hectic and we were interrupted by the red flag. But I knew the track was really good from watching the first group.
“Hinchcliffe did a 76 (second lap) which was really impressive. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but when I had two laps to go, I felt confident that the car worked really well and the last lap the car turned right. I just had to make sure that I didn’t make a mistake, as I was committed 100 percent of the time. That’s a really great moment for qualifying. I was really pleased with the outcome and really happy for the team.”
Unlike Saturday’s knockout round of qualifications Sunday morning’s qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award consisted of one 30-minute session with the field split into two groups based on Friday’s practice. Each group received 12 minutes of track time with at least five minutes of guaranteed green-flag running.
The fastest overall driver, regardless of group won the Verizon P1 Award. The fastest driver in each group received one bonus point. The pole winner’s group will occupies the odd-numbered positions (3, 5, 7…) while the other group’s drivers will occupy the even-numbered positions (4, 6, 8…) based on their fastest lap times.
Any driver who causes a red flag during any segment will lose their two quickest laps.
And the driver that did that was Hunter-Reay when he made contact with the wall in Turn 13.
“I’ve been hard on that left rear this weekend,” Hunter-Reay said. “It just snapped out and I couldn’t catch it. Totally my fault. Hopefully we can do what Will (Power) did yesterday. He came from way back to win the race.”
James Hinchcliffe qualified second, his fifth front row start in 2014. He also started second at Long Beach, Barber and the Indianapolis 500 and Saturday here at Belle Isle.
“The story of my year,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s unbelievable. This is our fifth second place start of the year. Going out in the first group we knew we were in a little bit of a disadvantage. The track always gets better for the second group but I drove everything I had off. And the car was so good. We knew there were a couple of big hitters still in Group Two and I feel bad for Ryan. That’s a really tough break. It’s definitely not his weekend but I’m really proud of the United Fiber & Data guys because the car was killer. It sucks that on the last lap, dying minutes, it all falls apart again but we’re still on the sharp end.”
Helio Castroneves qualified third after starting on pole yesterday. Mike Conway qualified fourth. He has started in the top six in his last four Belle Isle starts.
“My arm is fine after banging it in the wall hit on Saturday,” Conway said. “The car was good again but we need to work on it a bit after the runs in qualifying. The second group was faster. The grip level on the track surface improves with each session. Strategy will be a key again in the race. It was big in Saturday’s race. You will see how things play out early in the race.”
Ryan Briscoe qualified fifth, matching his best qualifying effort of the season on Saturday.