Saavedra wins 1st pole after Hunter-Reay crash

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm •  Published: May 9, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A slick surface was all it took for Sebastian Saavedra to win his first IndyCar Series pole.

It was also just enough to slip Ryan Hunter-Reay out of the top starting spot for Saturday's Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Saavedra won the pole Friday when Hunter-Reay appeared to drive through a patch of standing water that caused him to spin and crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The accident exiting Turn 14 came on the lap after Hunter-Reay had moved to the provisional pole, and IndyCar penalized him by taking away his two fastest laps for causing a session-ending caution.

"We definitely gave that one away," Hunter-Reay said. "Every time through there I almost lost it. I had a few big moments there, but in qualifying you've got to go for it. In the wet, you're always going for it.

"There's a very fine line between stepping over getting that good lap in the wet and throwing it off."

Rain showers changed the track conditions for each of the four qualifying sessions, and it picked up moments before the start of the final Fast Six session. IndyCar brought the cars back to pit road because of standing water on the track for a red-flag period that lasted about 20 minutes.

Saavedra had just bumped rookie Jack Hawksworth from the pole when Hunter-Reay turned his fast lap. But the IndyCar rule is to strip a driver of his two fastest laps for bringing out a red flag during qualifying, so Hunter-Reay was dropped to third.

Hunter-Reay, the only driver to advance to the Fast Six through the first four races of the season, has not started lower than third this year. But his Andretti Autosport team had work to do to repair his bright yellow No. 28, which sustained heavy damage to the right rear of the car.

Saavedra, who turned a lap at 1 minute, 23.8822 seconds, will lead the field to the green flag for the first IndyCar road course race at Indianapolis.

"I love the rain," Saavedra said. "It was crazy at first because we didn't know what to expect from the track — if it was going to be wet, if it was going to be dry. The whole session was just weird. It started to rain and went from wet, to dry, to super dry, to super wet. I loved it."

The previous road course was reconfigured into a 14-turn, 2.439-mile course to accommodate IndyCar, which is using the race to open the speedway and create buzz in advance of the Indianapolis 500. Drivers for the first time are running clockwise at the famed speedway, which will run the Grand Prix on Saturday and then revert to the traditional oval Sunday for the opening practice for the May 25 main event.

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