Ryan Hunter-Reay survived a late challenge from Will Power to claim pole position for this weekend’s IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park.
In a drama-filled session, the reigning champion moved to the top late in the ‘Fast Six’ with a best lap of 1m07.0871s, but then had to watch as Power squeezed in one final flying lap.
The Australian’s efforts fell short though, and he was forced to settle for second with a time 0.2s down on Hunter-Reay’s.
“We just kept progressing and we knew where we needed to work on it,” Hunter-Reay said.
Rookie Tristan Vautier did a remarkable job to qualify third, considering that he didn’t even know that he had progressed to the final round of qualifying until it was just about to start.
The Indy Lights champion initially ended the second phase in seventh place, and therefore missed out on advancing to the Fast Six.
His progress was sealed when Takuma Sato was disqualified from the session for blocking Justin Wilson.
Sato was the first victim of newly-introduced Rule 188.8.131.52, which states:”To further emphasise on-track sportsmanship, if a car is deemed by the race director to have interfered with qualifications during Segment 1 or 2 of road/street course qualifying, the car will not be allowed to advance to the next segment in addition to having its two fastest laps disallowed.”
Welcome news as this was for Vautier, it came after his car had already been pushed back to the paddock, prompting a frantic scramble among the Schmidt Peterson squad to return it to pitlane and ready it for another qualifying run.
Ganassi’s Scott Dixon was fourth fastest, the Kiwi having earlier become the first driver to dip into the 1m06s range when he delivered a 1m06.7250s effort during the first qualifying phase.
Charlie Kimball and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top six in a field in which several pre-weekend favourites were cancelled out early.
A super-competitive first qualifying group claimed the scalps of Simon Pagenaud, Dario Franchitti, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan, and Sebastien Bourdais.
But just how close it was between them was illustrated by the fact that six of the seven drivers eliminated in that phase had registered times fast enough to have advanced them had they been in the second group.
Group 2 also claimed some high-profile names including Simona de Silvestro and championship leader James Hinchcliffe. The latter felt that he had been unfairly blocked by Power, although the Australian suggested that this might have been due to the natural accordion effect that the track creates through Turn 9.
AJ Allmendinger made it through to the second phase in his single-seater comeback, and will start in the middle of the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m01.7339s 2. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m01.2070s + 0.2433s 3. Tristan Vautier Schmidt Dallara-Honda 1m02.0645s + 0.2745s 4. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m02.1715s + 0.2771s 5. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m02.1198s + 0.4116s 6. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m01.8991s + 0.4235s 7. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m01.6883s Round 2 8. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m02.2177s Round 2 9. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m01.7944s Round 2 10. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m01.7944s Round 2 11. James Jakes Rahal Dallara-Honda 1m02.1658s Round 2 12. Takuma Sato Foyt Dallara-Honda 1m01.5776s Round 2 13. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda 1m02.4736s Group 1 14. Simona de Silvestro KV Dallara-Chevy 1m01.7670s Group 2 15. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda 1m02.3328s Group 1 16. EJ Viso Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m02.1986s Group 2 17. Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m01.8150s Group 1 18. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy 1m02.1483s Group 2 19. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy 1m01.9139s Group 1 20. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m01.8229s Group 2 21. Graham Rahal Rahal Dallara-Honda 1m02.2709s Group 1 22. Josef Newgarden Fisher Dallara-Honda 1m02.1592s Group 2 23. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m02.6537s Group 1 24. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy 1m02.3179s Group 2 25. Ana Beatriz Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m03.2551s Group 1 26. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy 1m02.6634s Group 2