DETROIT – In a bizarre series of events, Graham Rahal won the Verizon P1 Award for Race 1 at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear later today.
With a fast lap and new track record of 1 minute, 13.9681 seconds (114.374 mph) in the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsForTroops.com Honda, Rahal scored his third career Verizon IndyCar Series pole and first since Kansas Speedway in 2009 -- 134 starts ago. It is also the first pole for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing since Scott Sharp started first at Texas Motor Speedway in 2007.
The results came after Helio Castroneves, a three-time pole and race winner on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, had what would have been a pole-winning and track-record lap erased for not adhering to a local caution flag on track during his qualifying session. Unique to the Belle Isle round, qualifying for each of the two races this weekend consists of the 22-car field split into two groups, with each group receiving 12 minutes of track time. The fastest driver in each session is awarded a championship point, with the fastest overall awarded the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for that day's race.
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 1 qualifying results; Race 1 starting tire selection
After Rahal set his lap standard in Group 1 -- breaking the record lap of 1:14.0379 set last year by Simon Pagenaud -- Castroneves bettered Rahal in Group 2 with a lap of 1:13.8901. However, the driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) was penalized for not slowing down by at least 15 percent when he drove through the local yellow flag waving for Milkhail Aleshin going into the Turn 7 runoff. Per Verizon IndyCar Series Rule 220.127.116.11. Castroneves lost his fastest lap, handing the pole position back to Rahal.
The 20th-year Indy car driver was still fastest in the second group (1:14.0414) and will start on the outside of Row 1 in this afternoon’s 70-lap race. As the fastest drivers in each group, Rahal and Castroneves each receive a championship point.
Having historically struggled on temporary street circuits, Rahal attributed his team’s rapid pace to a discovery made earlier this season.
“This setup kind of started with a concept out of Long Beach,” said the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner who sits 15th in the championship heading into today's race. “It is very, very, very, very different from what we ran here last year, or over the last handful of years. It is certainly a departure in our mindset than what we had done for a while.”
With two podium finishes in 10 previous starts at Belle Isle, Rahal will look to score his first win on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit and first on a street course since his first career win at St. Petersburg in 2008.
“I feel really good about our performance here this weekend,” said Rahal. “We're going to go out there and try to control the pace, hit our fuel targets, if that's something we need to do. I'm very happy for the United Rentals Turns For Troops guys. Hopefully we'll have a good, fun, safe, fast day.”
Because Rahal will start on pole, other drivers from Group 1 will make up the odd-numbered starting positions in today’s race based on their qualifying times this morning. Group 2 drivers will make up the even-numbered starting positions behind Castroneves.
Andretti Autosports teammates Takuma Sato, the reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil winner (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, 1:14.0428), and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda), will make up Row 2. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda, 1:14.3150) and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 Camping World Honda, 1:14.2855) round out the top six.
Coverage of the first race on the doubleheader weekend begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The same outlets will carry coverage of Race 2 on Sunday, also at 3:30 p.m. Live timing and scoring is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Watch Rahal's post-qualifying news conference here: