Alexander Rossi was awarded another point to help with the campaign for his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship after he turned the fastest lap during a soaked two-group qualifying procession for Race 2 of the doubleheader weekend in Detroit.
With the 23-car field split in two, Group 1 was first to test the waters around the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park after a morning downpour created entirely different conditions than were seen during Saturday’s qualifying and Race 1.
Thanks to his strong qualifying performance at the most recent non-oval event, Robert Wickens’ pit box is located near the front of pit lane, enabling him to lead Group 1 out of the pits and enjoy a clear track while his competitors dealt with spray from cars ahead.
Wickens made himself the fastest driver in the first group at 1:33.6605, earning a championship point of his own for topping a group.
Given that the track improved with each passing lap, Group 2 — which was Group 1 on Saturday — had an advantage, aiding Rossi in lapping 0.3462 seconds quicker than Wickens’ Group 1 pace.
After worries that the heavy rain would cause qualifying to be cancelled and the grid to be set based on the points, championship leader Rossi earned the pole anyway and will lead the field to the green flag for the second 70-lap race of the weekend.
Set for his second race since winning the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, Will Power will roll off third alongside Ed Jones, whose Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and Race 1 victor Scott Dixon qualified fifth.
James Hinchcliffe will start sixth ahead of Zach Veach, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay as eight Hondas swarmed the top 10 despite the presence of rain, the great equalizer.
Tony Kanaan spun on his first lap of qualifying at the entrance to Turn 5 and required assistance from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. For bringing out a red flag, Kanaan lost his fastest two laps — though he turned none — and was disallowed from continuing in the Group 1 session. He will start 22nd ahead of Juncos Racing’s Rene Binder after his team decided to skip qualifying.
Hunter-Reay also lost his fastest two laps and was unable to continue after spinning for his second time in Group 1.
The wet qualifying marked the first use of Firestone’s new rain tire, which helped drivers lap within 19 seconds of yesterday’s pole lap, set by Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti, who will start 12th.
The IndyCar field will return to the temporary street circuit in Detroit before the green flag flies to get Race 2 underway at 3:50 p.m. EDT on Sunday.