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SAAVEDRA WINS POLE FOR GRAND PRIX OF INDIANAPOLIS AS HUNTER-REAY SPINS
Author: Mark W. Theisen
photo: BroncosPitstop.com/Brady Whitesel
photo: BroncosPitstop.com/Brady Whitesel
May 9th 2014 -
     INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 9, 2014:   One of the more promising drivers coming up through the ranks of the Verizon IndyCar Series, Sebastian Saavedra, continued to build on his resume by capturing the pole position for tomorrows inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis after Ryan Hunter-Reay spun and hit the wall while sitting atop the final segment speed chart in today’s "knock-out” type qualification session.

     Qualifying for all road and street courses in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series consists of three segments, with each group receiving 10 minutes of track time.  The fastest six cars from each group advance to segment two, while the remaining cars are assigned positions 13-25.  Group one drivers occupied the odd number positions while group two drivers occupied the even numbers based on their fastest lap times.

     During segment two the 12 advancing cars received 10 minutes of track time.  The fastest six advanced to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout while the remaining cars were ranked in positions 7-12.

     After the first two segments it was; Saavedra, Jacks Hawksworth, Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Scott Dixon competing for the top starting spot.

      To make things even more interesting today was rain.  The session started with the track being dry but a mist began to fall and then rain which precipitated a change from regular slick tires to grooved rain tires. Speeds began to fall but conditions were even for the field.

     Segment three began after a heavy downpour caused the start to be delayed but when the rain stopped, the cars were flagged off despite the course being wet.

      All six drivers took their turn atop the speed chart as water slowly evaporated from the race course.  

     With less than two minutes in the segment Hunter-Reay exited the infield portion of the track and began his run down the front stretch when the rear of the car snapped to the left and sent his car rear end first into the outside retaining wall on the front stretch.

     Under Verizon IndyCar rules the driver that caused the yellow had his previous lap disallowed and thus Saavedra, who had been the fastest on several prior laps, took the top spot and then won the pole when the session ended without another lap being recorded.

      The third years series driver, Saavedra, switched to the KV Racing Technology AFS Racing team this year and has been good from the start of the season culminating with his first ever series pole position driving for the team that won the Indianapolis 500 last year with Tony Kanaan driving.

     "This is a great way to start the month of May,” said a beaming Saavedra.  "I have been pushing for an opportunity of this nature and to be able to do this for the team is just fantastic.”

      It has actually been good right from the start of the season for Saavedra who led his first laps ever in a Verizon IndyCar series race at Long Beach in the second race of 2014 and followed that up by leading at Barber Motorsports Park in the third event of the season.  He has finished 11th, 9th and 18th in the first three races but by being able to lead races and gain experience by doing so he is positioning him for that next step and that came today with his first ever pole position.

     Rookie Jack Hawksworth, driving for a one car team this year, Bryan Herta Racing, finished second after posting top lap speeds in each of his three segments.  Hawksworth has improved after each of his first three series starts and continues to give his team confidence in his selection as a driver.

      Hawksworth, like Saavedra, has had experience in driving in wet conditions as they came up through the racks of open wheel racing and that fact was not lost on the conditions encountered today.  It was the veteran that made the error and the two capitalized on it.

     Hunter-Reay’s laps prior to the accident were good enough to put him in third spot for tomorrow’s race and he assured the media that the car would be ready for tomorrow’s race.  "It’s salvageable,” said Hunter-Reay.  "The damage is in the right rear, the most work is going to be done with putting the smaller details back together, some of the exhaust on the right rear and things like that, but we should be fine tomorrow.”

     Pagenaud, Power and Dixon rounded out the Fast Six and all three had been among the quickest cars in each of the practice sessions that led up to today’s qualifications.

     The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, set to begin tomorrow at 3:50 P.M. will be first for the series on the infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is unique in the fact that the cars run the opposite way down the front stretch and into the infield portion of the race near the fourth turn.

      "It’s a different track,” said Dixon.  "Some times you forget you’re actually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it is different but it’s a great course, plenty of passing opportunities, it should be a great race.”

     Hunter-Reay’s penalty for causing the red flag in the third segment was losing his fastest two laps of the segment but his laps prior to that were good for third to show just how fast he was and what a mistake he made cost him.

     25 cars will the start the Grand Prix tomorrow with the winner having gained the distinction of being the first winner of the event.  The track has been reconfigured from when Formula One raced here so the winner will have bragging rights for a lifetime.

INDY 500:

     The field is now filled for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 with James Davison  driving a third entry from KV Racing Technology, ironically the car will be numbered 33 and will and assure that the traditional number of participants start the race.

     Davison, a 27-year old Australian, has raced Indy Lights cars at Indianapolis but never an Indy Car and joins an impressive field of rookies that completed their rookie orientation programs this past Monday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

GRAND PRIX OF INDIANAPOLIS SUPPORT RACES:

      USF2000, Mazda Pro Series and Indy Lights were featured in support races to the Grand Prix Qualifications and the same three series will race tomorrow, Saturday May 10th prior to the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

     In the USF2000 races rookie Will Owen, started 13th and took the lead on lap 14 of the 18 lap race on the 2.439 mile road course and beat Jake Eidson to take the race.  Aaron Telitz, Florian Latoore and Colton Herta rounded out the top five.

      Owen, driving for Pabst Racing which also features Austin Cindric the son of Penske Racing General Manager Tim, is owned by legendary Wisconsin Sports Car driver, owner and sponsor Augie, who was on hand to see one of his entries wind up in victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Cindric finished 8th.

     The Mazda Pro Series race saw Scott Hargrove take the lead on lap 16 of the 19 lap affair and pulled away to win by 4.9565 seconds over Shelby Blackstock.  Neil Alberico, Kellett Dalton and Brandon Newey rounded out the top five.  Pole sitter Spencer Pigot did not lead a lap and finished 8th in a race that was slowed 3 times for cautions that resulted from wet conditions around the road course.

     Matthew Brabham took the lead early and then cruised to his first Indy Lights win as the Friday preliminary events concluded this Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

     Brabham, the winner of 13 of 16 2013 Pro Mazda races, continued his climb in the ranks of open wheel racing.  Brabham gave Andretti Autosports the prestigious first series win on the road course of the Speedway.  

     Brabham won by 2.0578 seconds over Luiz Razia of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the team that usually wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Jack Harvey, Zack Meyer and Alex Baron completed the top five in a race that was dominated by Brabham and went flag without a caution flag.  

      Each of these three support series will race again tomorrow.