Sebastien Bourdais has qualified on pole position for Saturday night’s 2018 Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Grand Prix of Phoenix at ISM Raceway. The Frenchman, who currently is at the top of the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings after his win in the opening round at St. Petersburg, will start at the front of the grid for the thirty-fourth time in his career and for the first time on an oval since Milwaukee in 2006.
As the reigning race winner after last month’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Bourdais was given the ideal track conditions for his qualifying run, with qualifying order dictated by the championship standings. Running last meant that Bourdais got to take to the track in his #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in the coolest temperatures of the day, as the sun was continuing to set throughout the session.
“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.”
Bourdais’ two-lap average gave him a qualifying time of 39.0285 seconds with an average speed of 188.539mph, a run that was just under a tenth of a second faster than the second placed driver and fellow countryman Simon Pagenaud. The Team Penske driver won last year’s race at Phoenix and will be hoping to capitalize on his strong grid position to take a second consecutive win in Arizona. His team-mate Will Power will line-up just behind in third place, with the Australian looking to take the win that he lost twelve months ago.
Alexander Rossi put in a strong effort to take fourth on the grid in the #27 Andretti Autosport Honda. Just behind in fifth and sixth place respectively were the two Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens. Sixth was a fantastic result for Wickens, who, aside from in pre-season testing, has never driven on an oval. The Canadian rookie will hope to learn a lot on Saturday night as he gets his first oval race under his belt.
Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden will line-up seventh on the grid, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan just behind in eighth and ninth. Completing the top ten would be the first of two drivers who are making their Verizon IndyCar Series debut this weekend. Pietro Fittipaldi, driving the #19 for Dale Coyne, ran a two-lap average of 39.8725 seconds to take tenth on the grid; a fantastic effort by the Brazilian youngster.
Further back, despite having topped all the sessions of the pre-season test held at ISM Raceway in February, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing could only manage twelfth and thirteenth; with Graham Rahal beating team-mate Takuma Sato by two-tenths of a second.
The second series debutant in the field, Kyle Kaiser, will line-up fourteenth for his first race. The American, who won last year’s Indy Lights championship, set an average speed of 182.859mph in the #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet.
Rookie Matheus Leist will start sixteenth in the #4 A.J Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, just ahead of two series veterans. Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter did not have the qualifying that they would have been hoping for, with the four-time champion and 2016 Phoenix pole-sitter Dixon just edging out the three-time oval race winner Carpenter for seventeenth and eighteenth respectively.
Marco Andretti also had a poor qualifying after his Andretti Autosport team discovered a mechanical fault on the #98 Honda. He will start in twentieth, just behind Harding Racing‘s Gabby Chaves.
The two Carlin team-mates could not crack the top twenty in qualifying for the British team’s first oval race. Max Chilton will start just ahead of Charlie Kimball, with Chilton 2.2 seconds off of the two-lap average set by pole-sitter Bourdais. Andretti Autosports rookie, Zach Veach, will complete the field in twenty-third and last place.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix – Qualifying results:
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