On Friday night the cars and stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series took to the track at ISM Raceway to qualify ahead of Saturday’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix. St. Pete race winner Sebastien Bourdais took advantage of his status as IndyCar Points Leader to hit the track last, capturing the 34th pole of his career.
“That SealMaster #18 Honda was really solid. 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. It’s a great achievement for the whole Dale Coyne Racing team with Vasser and Sullivan,” said Bourdais after qualifying.
Lining up alongside Bourdais will be fellow countryman and 2017 Phoenix race winner Simon Pagenaud.
“What a phenomenal qualifying session for our team. We were mid pack, and I knew we would go faster at the end. When you see the lap time hold on, you hope. The hope was strong,” Said Pagenaud. The Frenchman clocked in a time of 31.1 seconds to put his Team Penske Chevrolet on the outside of Row 1.
Qualifying third for Saturday’s race was Australia’s WIll Power, who averaged a speed of 186.852 mph.
“In practice, the track temperatures were really high and we were having massive lifts. During qualifying, the track was just totally different and the car was really stuck. It felt really good,” Power said following his 2-lap run. As for Saturday’s race, the 37-year-old hopes the drivers can establish a second lane on track.
“I am hoping tomorrow night we can open a second lane because if that happens, it will make the racing great. Otherwise it is a single line and it makes it tough. So hopefully, early on people will go up for a second lane and then it starts rubbering in as the race progresses.”
Less than pleased with his qualifying efforts was 2016 Phoenix winner Scott Dixon.
“I’m really not sure what happened. We struggled a bit too in the session earlier today with overall grip. We just had a lot of understeer in Turn 4 and the car just wanted to break loose and take off.”. The driver of the #9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Honda will start Saturday’s race from 17th on the grid.
Several other prominent IndyCar drivers were left shaking their head after a disappointing qualifying session. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato, who led the series’ open tests at Phoenix earlier in the year, will line up 12th and 13th respectively. Veteran IndyCar oval ace Ed Carpenter qualified 18th.
“It was tough out there, for sure. The car had been feeling pretty good. I wasn’t quite expecting to get that loose. I had a pretty big wiggle in Turn 1 on my first lap, which probably didn’t help my confidence for the second lap,” Said Carpenter, who finished 7th in last year’s race.