Saturday, June 4, 2016

Morning Warm-Up: Belle Isle 2016 Race One

The championship leader is on pole position again
After having only one top ten finishers in the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske returned to its form from the first five races of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season and swept the top three positions in qualifying for race one at Belle Isle. Simon Pagenaud won his third pole position in the last four races with a time of 74.9166 seconds in the final round of qualifying. It is Pagenaud's fifth career pole position and the Frenchman has won the last two races he has started from pole position. He has one victory, three podiums and four top tens in seven Belle Isle starts, however, in all three previous doubleheaders at Belle Isle, Pagenaud has finished one race in the top ten and the other outside the top ten. Hélio Castroneves missed out on pole position by 0.0119 seconds. The Brazilian won pole position at Phoenix and Long Beach earlier this season. Castroneves set the track record in the second round of qualifying with a lap at 74.6899 seconds. 

Juan Pablo Montoya will start from third position. Belle Isle has not been a great track for Montoya. Last year, he finished tenth in both races but his average finish in six starts is 13.333. Montoya's 33rd place finish in the Indianapolis 500 was the tenth time in his IndyCar career he has finished outside the top twenty in a race. Four times Montoya has recovered with a top ten finish in his next start. James Hinchcliffe will start on the outside of row two. Hinchcliffe missed the Belle Isle races last year but in 2014 he finished sixth and fifth in the two races. Carlos Muñoz rounded out the top five in qualifying. This is Muñoz's best qualifying effort at Belle Isle.  Muñoz won last year's race from 20th on the grid. He has finished in the top ten in three of his four Belle Isle starts. Scott Dixon rounded out the top six. Dixon has the best average finish at Belle Isle among active drivers at 6.9. 

Tony Kanaan missed out on the final round of qualifying and will start seventh. This is the fourth time in ten Belle Isle starts he has started inside the top ten. Kanaan won his first start at Belle Isle in 2007, his most recent road/street course victory. Since Belle Isle became a doubleheader in 2013, he has finished outside the top ten in four of the last six Belle Isle races. Charlie Kimball makes it an all-Ganassi row four. He has finished in the top ten in the last three races and his worst finish in 2016 is 12th. Only once has Kimball finished in the top ten in four consecutive races. That was from Iowa to Mid-Ohio in 2014. Will Power ended up in ninth after having an engine problem plague him at the end of round one. Power led eight laps in the Indianapolis 500, his first laps led in 2016. Graham Rahal rounds out the top ten. Despite having four top ten finishes at Belle Isle, he has only led in one of eight starts. 

Takuma Sato and Mikhail Aleshin will start on row six. Sato's second place finish in the second Belle Isle race last year was his first top ten finish and first lead lap finish at the track. His average finish in seven Belle Isle starts is 15.9. This will be Aleshin's best starting position for a Belle Isle race. He has led in each of his two previous Belle Isle starts and he finished seventh in the Sunday race in 2014. Sébastien Bourdais is the most recent winner at Belle Isle and he will start 13th. Like Sato, Bourdais' victory last year was his first top ten finish at Belle Isle. The 18 laps Bourdais led were his first laps led on the street circuit. Josef Newgarden starts on the outside of row seven. Newgarden has two top ten finishes in seven Belle Isle starts but his only lead lap finishes have been his top ten finishes. He has had two accidents take him out of Belle Isle races. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified 15th with Conor Daly ending up in 16th. Hunter-Reay finished eighth in the Sunday race last year, ending a spell of four consecutive finishes outside the top ten at Belle Isle. This is the fifth consecutive Belle Isle race Hunter-Reay has started outside the top ten after starting his first five Belle Isle races no worse than seventh. Daly finished sixth last year at Belle Isle in the Sunday race while substituting for the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi will make his Belle Isle debut from 17th on the grid. Rossi has yet to qualify in the top ten for an IndyCar race. Rossi's former Marussia/Manor teammate Max Chilton will start next to him on row nine. Chilton finished 17th at St. Petersburg and 14th at Long Beach earlier this season. 

Marco Andretti will start 19th. This is the third time Andretti has start 19th this season. He went from 19th to 12th at Barber and 19th to 15th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He has finished better than his starting position in the last four races. Gabby Chaves rounds out the top twenty. This will be Chaves' best starting position of 2016 in his third start with Dale Coyne Racing. Chaves' first IndyCar top ten finish came in the Sunday race at Belle Isle last year when he finished ninth. Spencer Pigot makes his Ed Carpenter Racing debut from 21st on the grid. Jack Hawksworth starts 22nd after starting on the last row for the Indianapolis 500. Hawksworth has finished outside the top fifteen in the last five races. 

ABC's coverage for race one of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 70 laps.