HUNTER-REAY WINS POLE, POINTS LEADER DIXON STARTING SECOND AT SONOMA FINALE
SONOMA, California (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018) – Ryan Hunter-Reay ignored the hype surrounding the battle for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship and set about the task at hand: winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The Andretti Autosport veteran won the pole position for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma with a dramatic last lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the climactic round of knockout qualifying. Hunter-Reay blasted around the Sonoma Raceway road course in 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds (110.605 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda to earn the first starting position for Sunday’s season finale.
INDYCAR GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA: Official qualifying results
In doing so, Hunter-Reay also prevented championship leader Scott Dixon from earning an important bonus point awarded to the fast qualifier. Dixon still takes a 29-point lead over Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi into the race that offers double points. Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden also remain mathematically alive in the title chase, each 87 points behind Dixon, as the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be decided at the last race of the season for the 13th straight year.
But qualifying belonged to Hunter-Reay, who picked up the seventh pole position of his Indy car career and first since Long Beach in April 2014.
“This (No.) 28 DHL Honda team did just such a good job putting a great car under me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s nice to finally get that pole at Sonoma because we’ve been knocking on the door for it for years, so definitely a good team effort.
“I’m certainly doing my part (to help Rossi); I just took a point away from Dixon, so we’re doing everything we can do.”
Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, will start second after a lap of 1:17.7599 (110.417 mph). Dixon is chasing a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship that would leave him behind only A.J. Foyt (seven) for most season titles in Indy car history.
“I think we definitely had a shot to put the PNC Bank car on pole, but we’ll have to chalk that up to driver error,” Dixon said. “I had a lap going that would have gotten the pole, but I just made a mistake and it cost us.
“We’ve had a fast car all weekend here at Sonoma and we’ve stayed at the pointy end of the field since we unloaded. Hopefully that will continue in the race (Sunday) and we can finish the season strong.”
Rossi, Power and Newgarden will all be within arm’s reach of Dixon when the green flag drops on the 2.385-mile permanent road course hosting the season finale for the fourth straight year. Rossi will start sixth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (1:18.0019, 110.074 mph) after opting for Firestone black-sidewall primary tires in the Firestone Fast Six instead of the traditional choice for softer red-sidewall alternates.
“I don’t think we had the pace for Ryan, but we decided to try something different and see where it got us,” Rossi said.
“I don’t see us starting behind Dixon (as) that big of an issue. We just need to make sure we build a good race car and make sure we do the best job that we can and extract the most out of the (No.) 27.”