DETROIT – Marco Andretti became the seventh different Verizon P1 Award winner in as many Verizon IndyCar Series races this season when he captured the pole position today in qualifying for the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Driving the No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, the third-generation Indy car driver sizzled around the Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course in 1 minute, 14.8514 seconds (113.024 mph) on his last lap to collect the fifth pole position of his 13-year career and first since Pocono Raceway in July 2013.
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 1 qualifying results
Andretti will lead the field to the green flag in this afternoon’s race. It marks the first pole for the 31-year-old on a road or street circuit.
“I’m definitely embarrassed to say that this is my first (road/street pole), but I’ve been outside pole so many times on road and street courses,” Andretti said. “Extremely pleased to execute today. I think yesterday I knew we had the speed … so I knew we had it in the car. All I had to do was execute, and I was able to do that instead of just talking, ‘Oh we would have been first.’ Now we are.”
Andretti will look to erase an even longer drought this afternoon. He hasn’t won a race since 2011 at Iowa Speedway, a stretch of 115 races.
“It’s not easy to be first in anything,” he said. “It’s been a challenge. The win column is what’s really been bugging me, for sure. Starting first is awesome, but I definitely want to win the race. We have a great shot at doing that today. As soon as I knew we won pole, the switch in my brain flipped to win.”
In the unique qualifying format for the Detroit doubleheader weekend, the 23-car field was split into two groups – with each group receiving 12 minutes of track time on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit. Scott Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, was quickest in the first group with a lap of 1:15.4186 (112.174 mph) and will start alongside Andretti on the front row.
“The PNC Bank car has been pretty good,” Dixon said. “We haven’t changed too much on it. It was a pretty rough lap, actually. The car actually had more speed in it. Kinda hit the wall in (Turns) 8 and 6 on the inside. Hit the curb big in (Turn) 11, which launched the car. It was a very scrappy lap.”
“We’re happy to be on the front row. Hopefully, we can race well and the goal is to go one spot better. Congrats to Marco. They did a great job across the board.”
Under the format, the drivers in Andretti’s qualifying group will occupy the odd-numbered grid positions for the 70-lap race, based on their qualifying times. The drivers from Dixon’s group will fill in the even-numbered starting positions.
Honda-powered drivers swept the first five qualifying positions and nine of the top 11. Rookie Robert Wickens will start third in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (1:15.3267), with Alexander Rossi fourth in the No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda (1:15.4946).
Will Power, who won the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 27 to take the championship lead after six races, will start sixth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Graham Rahal, who swept both Belle Isle wins a year ago, goes off eighth today in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda.
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is the only doubleheader weekend on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Live coverage of today’s race, the seventh of 17 this season, airs on ABC (3:30 p.m. ET) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (3 p.m.). Race 2 airs at the same times Sunday.