French Front Row Will Start Phoenix Grand Prix
|"I mean, obviously he [Dale Coyne Racing race engineer Craig Hampson] knows me very well.", said Sebastien Bourdais in the post qualifications press conference. "I think everybody is very conscious of, trying not to upset my wife too much, meaning, keeping the thing on the black stuff, away from the walls. I don't think they really want to do anything too crazy. Honestly, when the weekends go like that, because we unloaded the car we had at the test, and we tried something, didn't get a really good read on it, so we came back and really did some very fine-tuning to it. We got through the qualifying line, and I really knew what I had. That's the best possible way to go qualifying." Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)
French Front Row Will Start Phoenix Grand Prix
Champions - 2 from France and one from Austrailia - crowd the first three positions of qualifications at Phoenix Grand Prix.
In a oval qualifications each-by-each session at ISM Raceway held between 5:00pm and 6:00pm with the sun and desert temperatures dropping, Team Penske teammates and IndyCar season champions, driving Dallara Chevys, Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Will Power (2014) held down the top two positions over the rest of the field until the last Dallara Honda, prepared by Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, took to the track.
Four-time season champion Sebastien Bourdais deaccellerated through pit entrance topping the speed charts at 188.539 creating an all Frenchman front row for the side-by-side start of the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway.
Qualifications Results >>>
Important career points achieved by Sebastien Bourdais with the ability to know what he needed to do to capture the pole due to knowing he was the last car to take the track in a qualifications run:
** Career best start at ISM Raceway (former best was 10th)
** First Pole earned in nearly 12 years. His last pole on an oval was in 2006 at Milwaukee.
** 34th career pole – breaks tie with Dario Franchitti (now 8th) for 7th on all-time poles list
** 2nd pole ever for Dale Coyne Racing
This excerpted and edited from IndyCar -
Bourdais qualified in preferred cooler conditions under the setting sun. It helped the 39-year-old from Le Mans, France, earn a pole position on an oval for the first time since Milwaukee in June 2006, when he was in the midst of winning four consecutive Champ Car titles. It was also the second pole in the 35-year history of Dale Coyne Racing, following Mike Conway at Detroit’s Belle Isle in 2013.
“That SealMaster No. 18 Honda was really solid,” Bourdais said. “As soon as that track temp cooled off, it just gives you all the grip you need to make it happen. It’s high tension, high pressure, really listening to the car and making sure you don’t overdo it.”
Simon Pagenaud, last year’s race winner at ISM Raceway, qualified second with a two-lap average of 188.148 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate and 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power was third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, at 186.852 mph.
“I think we did a really good job considering the conditions,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “The car, she was really nice, it was perfect. The No. 22 Menards team did a really good job. I think we’ve got a really good race car, so I’m excited.”
Alexander Rossi qualified fourth for Andretti Autosport in the No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda (185.741 mph). Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe and rookie Robert Wickens locked up the third row of the starting grid: Hinchcliffe qualifying fifth at 185.741 mph in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda and Wickens sixth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (185.362 mph).
“A huge credit to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys because we did not have a great test here back in February,” Hinchcliffe said. “Obviously things have changed a lot conditions-wise, but we went back (after the test), had a big think about it, a big look inside ourselves. I just can’t thank those guys and gal enough for getting us good cars and getting us both up there. It’s awesome.”
Several drivers expected to contend for the pole struggled in qualifying. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing led every session of the Phoenix open test in February, but drivers Graham Rahal (No. 15 One Cure Honda) and Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) qualified 12th and 13th, respectively. Four-time series champion and 2016 Phoenix winner Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was 17th, Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) was 18th and Marco Andretti (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda) was 20th.
Andretti’s crew discovered a mechanical issue with his car after the run that hindered his effort.
“We were a lot too low on our qual run – we weren’t expecting the big pace gain,” Andretti said. “I was just bottoming everywhere and at the limit of the deck of the car. After qualifying we found that the skid (plate) was pulling down and we were bottoming in third gear. That caused our struggle and lost time. We’re going to need to make some headway and work our way back in the race.”
Saturday’s 250-lap race will be the 64th for Indy cars at the historic mile oval outside Phoenix dating to when the track opened in 1964. The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix airs live at 9:00pm ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
... notes from The EDJE
TAGS: Verizon IndyCar Series, ISM Raceway, Phoenix Grand Prix, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Team Penske, IndyCar, The EDJE