Ryan Hunter-Reay’s hopes of successfully defending his IndyCar Series crown received a boost on Saturday when the Andretti Autosports driver claimed pole position for this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 round at Mid-Ohio.
Despite last-minute bids from his rivals in the final ‘Fast Six’ shootout for pole, the American’s time of 1:05.3519 proved good enough for top spot, narrowly edging out Will Power for pole position by less than two-tenths of a second.
With Hunter-Reay lying 68 points behind championship leader Helio Castroneves – who only qualified fifteenth-fastest in a disappointing session – the result is a boost for his title defence as he hopes to claw back the deficit over the remaining six races in the season.
“Last year we clawed back from bigger deficits,” he said afterwards. “Being late in the season, we need to go like we did last year at the end of the season, which is go for broke. We’re not interested in banking results right now and going for second or third in the championship because nobody really remembers who finishes second a couple of years from now.
“We’re going for it. Hopefully this is the first step in it. But we have a long way to go, including tomorrow’s fight for the win. It’s going to be a long, hard race going up against the Ganassi, Penske boys and my teammates as well.”
But Hunter-Reay will need to keep an eye on his mirrors, as starting immediately behind him on the second row of the grid is Scott Dixon, who will be gunning for a fifth victory at Mid-Ohio and his fourth on the trot in the Kiwi’s late-season surge for championship honours.
The Chip Ganassi driver shares Row 2 with the evergreen Marco Andretti, while Dixon’s stablemates, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti, locked out the third row. Kimball’s career-best qualifying effort was particularly impressive, although he would be wise to praise a Herculean effort from his mechanics who rebuilt his car after a heavy crash in the morning’s practice session.
The preceding second phase of qualifying was a closely-fought affair, and no less than three drivers – Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and Simona de Silvestro – were unlucky not to have found themselves competing in the ‘Fast Six’, missing out on a berth by just a tenth of a second.
Series debutants James Davison and Luca Filippi had varying performances. The former copped plenty of criticism for Ed Carpenter after failing to use his mirrors in the opening minutes of their group qualifying session, while Filippi was struck of his two fastest qualifying times for bringing out the red flags when he went off the circuit in his Barracuda Racing entry. The Italian had looked on course to qualify inside the top-fourteen, but will instead start from the back row of the grid.
2013 IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Qualifying Results:
|‘Fast 6’ Qualifiers||Entry / Team||Result|
|1.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||1:05.3519|
|2.||Will Power||Team Penske – Chevrolet||+ 0.1840|
|3.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||+ 0.3532|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||+ 0.5047|
|5.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||+ 1.0896|
|6.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda||+ 1.2335|
|‘Round 2’ Qualifiers||Entry / Team||Result|
|7.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||1:05.9405|
|8.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH – Honda||1:05.9412|
|9.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||1:05.9621|
|10.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||1:06.1778|
|11.||Tristan Vautier||SPH – Honda||1:06.3379|
|12.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela – Chevrolet||1:06.4071|
|‘Group’ Qualifiers||Entry / Team||Result|
|13.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet||1:06.2198||G1|
|14.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||1:06.1856||G2|
|15.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske – Chevrolet||1:06.2280||G1|
|16.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises – Honda||1:06.1989||G2|
|17.||James Davison||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda||1:06.2839||G1|
|18.||Oriol Servia||Panther Racing – Chevrolet||1:06.2109||G2|
|19.||Josef Newgarden*||Sarah Fisher Hartman – Honda||1:06.5334||G1|
|20.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet||1:06.2537||G2|
|21.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet||1:07.0895||G1|
|22.||Graham Rahal*||Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda||1:06.4002||G2|
|23.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing – Chevrolet||1:07.4107||G1|
|24.||Luca Filippi||Barracuda Racing – Honda||1:06.8757||G2|