The biggest surprise of Pole Day qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday was just how poorly the four-car Ganassi squad performed.
With the top ten virtually locked out by Chevrolet runners from Penske, Andretti Autosport and KV Racing Technology, Ganassi couldn't even lay claim to being the fastest Honda on the grid. Instead, they were out-performed by the shoestring Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing squad and their Indy 500 rookie driver Josef Newgarden.
That left Ganassi's top car on the grid in the hands of Graham Rahal in 12th place: "Our goal's got to be the quickest of the Hondas, and I think we could have been close," he said at the weekend. "Newgarden obviously did a good time there, but I certainly think we could have beat that if we had run fifth [gear]."
Further back, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon will line up on the fifth row in 14th and 15th position. Current IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti could only manage 16th place at the head of the sixth row. It will be the first in five years that the Indy 500 has not included one of Ganassi's cars on the front row.
"It's not been a very good qualifying for us, it just shows that everybody can get it wrong sometimes," admitted Franchitti later. "As a unit, myself and the rest of the Target guys, we're just off. We're not where we need to be.
"It sucks. It absolutely sucks. Every member of the Target team is working so hard, we're just having a hard time figuring this one out," he added. "There's a bit of head-scratching going on. We've tried a number of different things."
Rubbing salt into the wound, Pole Day coincided with Franchitti's 39th birthday, but no one felt like celebrating: "I've had some great birthdays here, today's not one of them," Franchitti admitted.
Even more discouragingly, the team didn't even feel it was worth any of their drivers going out for a second qualifying run to try to post improved time. Doing so would have meant deleting their first run and risking an even lower grid position, and no one felt it was worth the gamble.
"Honda seems a bit challenged here, so we're working on that," sighed team owner Chip Ganassi. "We're a little disappointed."