Rahal grabs opening Detroit pole after Castroneves penalty

by Paul Hensby

Graham Rahal continued his strong Belle Isle weekend during Saturday’s first qualifying session as he took his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole position since Kansas Speedway back in 2009.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver was quickest in his group during qualifying but he a little fortunate to see Helio Castroneves lose his best lap time for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags.

With two races this weekend, the regular three-stage qualifying was put aside, with the twenty-two drivers split into two groups of eleven, with each group given twelve minutes of track time to set their best times to set the grid for race one.

Rahal was in the first group, and his lap of 1:13.9681s saw him finish ahead of last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato of Andretti Autosport by 0.0747 seconds. James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsport was third in the group ahead of Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, both of Team Penske.

Castroneves came out on top in group two, but lost his best lap that was a tenth faster than Rahal after failing to slow enough through a yellow flag zone after Mikhail Aleshin spun, although his second best of 1:14.0414s still saw the Team Penske driver finish ahead of Andretti Herta Autosport’s Alexander Rossi by 0.0461 seconds.

Scott Dixon was third fastest in the group for Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of team-mates Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball.

Rahal’s pole position means everyone in his group will line up in the odd numbered grid slots, with Castroneves’ group taking the evens, meaning row two will feature the last two Indianapolis 500 winners Sato and Rossi, followed by Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Pagenaud, Chilton, Newgarden and Kimball.

Esteban Gutierrez’s first qualifying session ended with the Dale Coyne Racing driver nineteenth on the grid, finishing just 0.0015 seconds behind Spencer Pigot in his group but ahead of team-mate Ed Jones by more than two-tenths of a second.

Belle Isle Race 1 Qualifying Result

115Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:13.9681
23Helio CastronevesBRZTeam Penske1:14.0414
326Takuma SatoJAPAndretti Autosport1:14.0428
498Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport1:14.0875
55James HinchcliffeCANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports1:14.1801
69Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:14.2855
71Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:14.3150
88Max ChiltonGBRChip Ganassi Racing1:14.9991
92Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:14.3805
1083Charlie KimballUSAChip Ganassi Racing1:15.0664
1112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:14.6312
1228Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:15.0991
1327Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Autosport1:14.6719
1414Carlos MunozCOLAJ Foyt Enterprises1:15.2060
1510Tony KanaanBRZChip Ganassi Racing1:15.2668
164Conor DalyUSAAJ Foyt Enterprises1:15.2228
1720Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:15.6261
1821JR HildebrandUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:15.2334
1918Esteban GutierrezMEXDale Coyne Racing1:15.6276
207Mikhail AleshinRUSSchmidt Peterson Motorsports1:15.2430
2119Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing1:15.8343
2216Oriol ServiaESPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:15.2758

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