Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe have secured an Andretti Autosport front row for Sunday’s IndyCar Series race on the streets of Long Beach.

In what was a surprising qualifying given the number of more-fancied runners who failed to deliver, the final ‘Fast Six’ shootout for pole was an all-Honda affair. Sébastien Bourdais had provisionally held pole position until the final minute, when Hinchliffe and then Hunter-Reay manage to squeeze out a fractionally quicker lap time.

Josef Newgarden – who started on the front row at the same race in 2012 – was fourth-quickest in his SFHR Honda, while the impressive rookie Jack Hawksworth was a sensational fifth-fastest on the grid, ahead of Simon Pagenaud.

Hawksworth’s stellar qualifying performance in the second phase of the Saturday track action proved enough to bump defending champion Scott Dixon out of a ‘Fast Six’ berth. The New Zealander wasn’t alone in joining a long list of highly-rated runners who failed to make it out of an intense second-round session. Hélio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson were also among those to find themselves out of contention for pole position.

Perhaps more surprising was the list of runners who failed to beyond their respective group sessions. Will Power had just the second ever Q1 knock-out in his illustrious career in what was a poor day for Team Penske – teammate Juan Pablo Montoya will start two spots behind after scraping the Turn 4 wall – while former Long Beach winner Mike Conway was also eliminated.

The Chip Ganassi stable had a dreadful showing, with three of its four drivers – Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe – all failing to put a decent enough lap together in their respective heat sessions.

Rahal's dreadful qualifying form continued

Rahal’s dreadful qualifying form continued

Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato was another casualty, and his misfortune was further compounded when he was stripped of his two fastest times for impeding Hunter-Reay in their group qualifying run.

For the second race on the trot, Graham Rahal will start from the back row of the grid, having seemingly found no cure for the appalling qualifying form that dogged him for much of the 2013 season. Adding insult to injury was the performance of his teammate Oriol Servià, who qualified twelfth-quickest in his part-time campaign with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan stable. It’s hardly the sort of exposure new sponsor National Guard would have been looking for.

2014 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach – Qualifying:

‘Fast Six’ Session Team / Entry Time
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 1:07.8219
2. James Hinchcliffe ca Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 0.1184
3. Sébastien Bourdais KV Racing Technology Honda Honda + 0.1361
4. Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Honda + 0.1878
5. Jack Hawksworth Bryan Herta Autosport Honda Honda + 0.2306
6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 0.2513
‘Round 2’ Session Team / Entry Time
7. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:07.9981
8. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 1:08.0179
9. Hélio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.1119
10. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda 1:08.1218
11. Carlos Muñoz Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 1:08.1506
12. Oriol Servià es Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Honda 1:08.3532
Group Sessions Team / Entry Time
13. Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.4424
14. Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.1159
15. Takuma Sato A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda Honda 1:08.5660
16. Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.3649
17. Mike Conway Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.5702
18. Ryan Briscoe Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.3699
19. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet 1:08.6507
20. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda 1:08.4321
21. Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda 1:08.7051
22. Sebastián Saavedra KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda Honda 1:08.9619
23. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Honda 1:09.0562

Image via XPB Images

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Matt Lennon