Defending Verizon IndyCar Series titlist Simon Pagenaud earned his first pole of 2017 and the 10th of his career with a new track record on the streets of Toronto.
- RESULTS: 2017 Honda Indy Toronto Qualifying
Pagenaud’s teammate Will Power set a blistering pace in the first qualifying group, breaking the existing track record on the current configuration without resorting to using the softer red-sidewalled Firestone Firehawk alternate tires.
The 59.3910-second lap put Power ahead of Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Helio Castroneves, JR Hildebrand and Marco Andretti with all six drivers under the 60-second barrier and moving on to Round 2.
While Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones and Charlie Kimball were also quicker than one minute, they did not make the cutoff to advance to the second round. Carlos Munoz also failed to advance.
Like Power, Pageanud laid down his quick lap on primary Firestone Firehawk tires and allowed the rest of the group to switch to alternate tires to attempt to beat his time.
The 59.5570-second lap turned by Pagenaud remained unsurpassed at the conclusion of Group 2 with Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi coming closest with a 59.5577.
Josef Newgarden, Max Chilton and Scott Dixon dipped into the 59-second range to advance to Round 2 while Hinchcliffe also moved on with a 1:00.0348.
Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Conor Daly, Sebastian Saavedra and Esteban Gutierrez missed the cutoff to get out of Round 1.
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Some of the group that did not advance were robbed of their final flying lap when the session was red flagged following heavy contact with the wall by Gutierrez.
The rookie driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing, who was sixth fastest when he hit the wall, lost his best lap time for bringing out a red flag.
Through the first segment of the Round 2, it appeared as though Team Penske would utilize a similar strategy to the first round by not switching to alternate tires. With four minutes remaining, all four Penske drivers sat atop the timesheet led by Pagenaud.
Eight minutes into the 10-minute session, JR Hildebrand brought out a red flag when he made contact with the wall in Turn 8. The incident stripped him of his fastest lap and prompted INDYCAR to give drivers one additional timed lap.
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When the session went back to green, all drivers had switched to alternate tires. Pagenaud stayed on top of the timesheet with a 59.2922, yet another new track record on the current Toronto configuration.
Dixon broke up the Penske party with a 59.5732-second lap that placed him second on the Round 2 leaderboard. Power, Castroneves, Hinchcliffe and Rahal completed the top six and all advanced to Round 3.
Newgarden, Rossi, Chilton, Sato, Andretti and Hildebrand occupied positions seven through 12 at the end of the session and will fill those same positions in the starting lineup.
Firestone Fast 6
Pagenaud’s strongest lap — a 58.9124 — came during the Firestone Fast 6 and established a new standard on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.
“Certainly, there is not much more in it, but the whole qualifying I worked on details and driving,” said Pagenaud after his pole-winning effort. “My teammates, they are tremendous — it’s such a good atmosphere when we work together.
“Each practice we talked about how we manage the corners and we keep improving each other.
“I feel like I really extracted the best out of my car, the best out of my setup today. It’s obviously the most satisfying thing and that is what I’m always seeking for.”
Pagenaud’s last pole came at Sonoma in 2016.
With Newgarden failing to make it to the Firestone Fast 6 with the rest of his Penske teammates, a top-four sweep for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ current power team was no longer a possibility.
Graham Rahal made a top-three sweep an impossibility as well with a strong 59.2245-second lap that placed the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda second on the Round 3 timesheet.
“Honestly, I think on used (alternate) tires, it’s probably the best lap I’ve ever put together to put us P2,” said Rahal. “The Penskes looked like they were going to run away with this thing. I’m so geeked for this team.
“These boys have worked so hard and, man, I couldn’t be more proud of them. That was awesome.”
Split by Rahal, the remaining Penske pilots completed the top four behind Pagenaud and Rahal with Castroneves and Power lining up third and fourth.
Dixon and Hinchcliffe qualified fifth and sixth and will start from the third row in Sunday’s race.
Notably, Dixon’s appearance in the Firestone Fast 6 continues a streak of five consecutive top-six starts in each of the races that have utilized the three-round qualifying format in 2017.
Hinchcliffe matched his best start on the streets of Toronto. He also started sixth in 2016.
With the grid set for the Honda Indy Toronto, the 21-car field will return to the track for a 30-minute warm-up at 11:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. The 85-lap race will follow with the green flag expected at 3:47 p.m. The race will be broadcast live on CNBC beginning at 3 p.m. and will be re-aired on NBSCN at 7 p.m.