By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Simon Pagenaud led a Team Penske sweep of the top three spots at Belle Isle to take his fifth career pole and third of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Season.
The Frenchman pulled off a flying lap of 1:14.9166s on the primary black tires as opposed to his rivals who chose to make their qualifying runs on the option red tires. Pagenaud’s lap was just a tick quicker than Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves’ lap of 1:14.9285, who was on the option red tires.
“The track is awesome,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a real street fight out there. The team is just doing incredible. Glad we could keep the momentum going; last weekend wasn’t what we wanted but we’re back. It’s an awesome feeling today.”
The Brazillian set a Belle Isle track record of 1:14.6899s in Q2 of today’s session, but was unable to replicate the lap to take the pole.
Juan Pablo Montoya reared the Team Penske train in third place and was followed by Indianapolis 500 pole sitter James Hinchcliffe in fourth. Defending race winner Carlos Munoz solidly qualified in fifth place after making his first Firestone Fast Six session since Mid-Ohio in 2014.
2012 Detroit winner Scott Dixon struggled with his car setup in the Fast Six but will still roll off in sixth place and will be followed by Chip Ganassi teammates Tony Kanaan in seventh place and Charlie Kimball in eighth place.
After leading this morning’s lone practice session, Will Power tagged the wall near the end of the first session of qualifying but still advanced to the second round. The Aussie did not find the same pace he had this morning and ended the day in ninth place and will be flanked on the fifth row by Graham Rahal.
Despite Carlos Munoz making it into the Fast Six, Andretti Autosport’s remaining entries did not advance out of Q1 with Ryan Hunter-Reay ending up in 15th place after being held up by Sebastien Bourdais which in turn held up teammate Marco Andretti, who ended up in 19th place.
Hunter-Reay explained the situation following the session:
“There’s an accordion affect in qualifying sometimes, You get yourself into a gap, you make your home in that gap and then everybody’s just got to go. Bourdais, for some reason, went five seconds off the pace on that first lap. I have to understand why he did it; I’ve got to understand why it was necessary. I’ll go talk to him and figure it out – he has plenty of experience so it’s strange that would happen. But it cost me, and it cost Marco.
Andretti and Hunter-Reay exchanged words following the session with Andretti reportedly saying that Hunter-Reay cost him dear time.
Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi ended up in 17th place.