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Rossi overcomes wet conditions to win pole for second Detroit race

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

Courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

DETROIT  – Alexander Rossi delivered Andretti Autosport its second Verizon P1 Award in as many days, capturing the pole position in qualifying for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear set for later today.

Alexander Rossi dives into Turn 5 during qualifications for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Running on the new Firestone rain tire in wet but drying conditions this morning on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street course at Belle Isle Park, Rossi turned a best lap of 1 minute, 33.3143 seconds (90.661 mph) in the No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda. It earned the current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader the third pole position of his three-year careerand second this season.

Marco Andretti, Rossi’s teammate, took the pole position in Saturday’s qualifying for Race 1, which was won by Scott Dixon.

 

CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY LEAR: Race 2 qualifying results

The past two times Rossi has started a race from the pole – at Watkins Glen International last season and Long Beach this year – he has gone on to win the race. This time, he had to earn the top starting spot in treacherous conditions.

Alexander Rossi with the Verizon P1 Award after winning the pole position for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Chris Owens

“It was difficult,” Rossi said. “The wet’s hard in any type of condition, especially on a street course like this. I’ve got to give a shout out to Firestone. This new tread pattern they came up with was really stout. It had a lot of grip, it was very predictable, I knew where the limit was right away.

“It made the job easier, for sure. It then becomes a session of trying to find the grip and maximizing as much as you can. Fortunately, the No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage car had a good balance and allowed me to do that.”

Rossi was the fastest driver in the second qualifying group when the track began drying following a heavy rainstorm early in the morning. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens was quick in the first group and will start on the outside of Row 1 following a lap of 1:33.6605 (90.326 mph) in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda.

Robert Wickens sails through Turn 2 during qualifications for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Chris Owens

“Honestly, it was a tough session,” Wickens said. “First time with these Firestone rain tires and the first time driving an Indy car in the wet on a street course. … On a street course, because it’s a normal road, there’s some unique lines that you have to take. Normally, you want to avoid the rubber or the oil, but on a street course, there’s cars driving everywhere on them, so it’s permanently slippery. It’s always unique on a street course to find the grip and the speed.

“Having clear visibility in that quali helped me quite a bit,” added Wickens, who won the pole in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg in March and qualified second in last month’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. “I’m very happy to start P2. It’s my third front-row start of the season. Hard to complain.”

Marco Andretti races through Turn 5 during qualifications for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Several drivers encountered difficulty on the slick concrete circuit during qualifying. Tony Kanaan, who made his 350th Indy car start in Race 1 on Saturday, damaged the front wing of his No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet when he hit the wall on his out lap and caused a red-flag stoppage. Per INDYCAR rule, Kanaan was not allowed to continue in the session and will start 22nd in the 23-car field this afternoon.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Dixon in Race 1, went into the Turn 3 runoff at one point in qualifying and then spun in Turn 8. The latter incident brought out a local yellow flag, forcing Hunter-Reay to surrender his best lap to that point. He will start 10th in the No. 28 DHL Honda.

Simon Pagenaud sets up for Turn 5 as Tony Kanaan gets turned around exiting Turn 4 during qualifications for Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Josef Newgarden, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, slid into the Turn 11 tire barrier late in the second qualifying group to bring out a red flag to end the session. Penalized his two fast laps, Newgarden will start 19th in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Dixon, who collected career win No. 42 on Saturday to tie Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list, qualified fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (1:33.9544). With the bonus point earned for qualifying first, Rossi leads Dixon by five points heading into the race. 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, eight points behind Rossi and third in the standings, qualified third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:33.8295).

Graham Rahal, who won both Detroit races a year ago but crashed out and finished in 23rd place on Saturday, was forced to his backup car today and qualified ninth in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

This afternoon’s 70-lap race, the eighth of 17 on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, airs live on ABC (3:30 p.m. ET) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (3 p.m.).  

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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