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Andretti on pole for Milwaukee IndyFest

15 June 2013

From the very start on Friday, the big question was whether anyone had anything in reserve to prevent Andretti Autosport in general and Marco Andretti in particular from dominating the proceedings in early evening qualifying.

The answer, in both cases, was pretty much 'no.'

Marco's two-lap qualifying time of 42.8584s meant an average speed of 170.515mph, which easily surpassed the previous qualifying record of 168.737mph for the Milwaukee Mile set last year by Dario Franchitti.

"That was about as good as we could run, so I'm pleased," said the driver afterwards. "I'm pleased with what we did out there," he said, adding that he'd been able to build on last year's set-up work by his team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay who went on to win the 2012 race here.

"Chevrolet has done a great job as well, but I'm even more pleased because I think we have a heck of a race car underneath us too," he added.

It will be the third time that Marco has started from pole position in 124 IZOD IndyCar Series starts. His first pole also came at Milwaukee way back in 2008, and it' a track with huge significance for the Andretti family as a whole - his father Michael - now the CEO of Andretti Autosport - is a five-time winner here.

"I told Dad that hopefully [pole] is only half of his Father's Day gift," said Marco. The family's marketing company is also the main sponsors and organisers of the Saturday's Milwaukee IndyFest event.

It's not just Marco who shone for the Andretti race squad on Friday: all four of the team's cars will start from the top five. Marco was just 0.0245s ahead of his team mate James Hinchcliffe, while Hunter-Reay was a tenth back and will take fourth place just ahead of the Andretti-HVM co-entry driven by EJ Viso.

"Don't tell Marco, but the outside is way better on the start!" quipped Hinchcliffe of his hopes for the start of the race which will see the #27 GoDaddy.com car start alongside Andretti on the front row - and on the outside line. "That is what is what I was going for!"

Hinchcliffe had an early setback in the first Friday practice session when he brushed the wall and missed most of the session while his car was repaired, so second place on the grid marked a great comeback for the 26-year-old Canadian who is so far the only repeat winner in the 2013 IndyCar season after eight of the 19 races of the season.

"For where we were especially at practice, the front row - I will take it!" he said, while admitting that he was still just a little disappointed at not being able to go one better. "Man, the third time starting second - I mean like it's always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I mean, I want that pole so bad!"

Hinchcliffe and his team mates came close to entirely locking out the front four rows of the grid for Saturday afternoon's race, but in the end their efforts were thwarted by a strong qualifying effort from a driver not usually known for his oval races but who is clearly markedly better at them in 2013.

"Starting third is a good position for us tomorrow," said Team Penske's Will Power. "We've had a good Verizon car all day. I thought we might have enough for pole today but I made a little mistake on the last lap and we just missed it."

That pushed Hunter-Reay down to fourth place and dropped Viso back a row in fifth, where he will line-up alongside Sebastian Saavedra who had put in an impressive performance in the Dragon Racing car to clinch sixth place on the grid.

"I am very happy," said the Colombian. "It's defiantly a great feeling for all of the guys and a huge boost of motivation. It is very important to qualify up front here in Milwaukee due to the lack in passing opportunities.

"We really went aggressive on our first qualifying lap and it paid off," he added. "I am really looking forward to tomorrow's race."

With Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan next fastest on the grid for KV Racing Technology, it means you have to look al the way down to eighth place for a Honda-powered entry, emphasising the dominance that Chevrolet teams seem to have this year on oval circuits.

"It felt good out there," said Josef Newgarden, who was Honda's top man in the #67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car on Friday. "We maximized what we could for today and I think we have an even better car for the race tomorrow, and that's when it counts.

"I'm excited for Saturday," he added. "I think we learned a lot about our race car in practice. We tuned it and made it better from our starting package, which was already good, so we should be really strong for the race."

The remainder of the top ten was filled by two more Honda runners in the form of the Sam Schmidt Motorsport cars of Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier in ninth and tenth, pushing Ganassi's Scott Dixon out to 11th place on the 24-car grid.

"We hit the hard limiter, which really hurt us in qualifications," said Pagenaud of his qualifying laps. "The balance was nice in my car. It was awesome in Turns 1 and 2, and then a bit loose in turns 3 and 4. It was a bit loose overall but good enough for me to stay full-throttle for both qualifying laps."

"We had an awesome pace in the first practice session this morning, and then we really struggled this afternoon," admitted Pagenaud's team mate and fellow Frenchman, Tristan Vautier. "We were a bit uncertain of how we would qualify but it was a decent run. I was pretty happy about the car. If someone would have told me we would run that speed before qualifications I don't think I would have believed them."

Six cars were more than a second off Marco's two-lap pole time, with Ryan Briscoe (back in the #4 National Guard car for Panther Racing) and Ana Beatriz (returning to the #18 Dale Coyne Racing car for the first time since the Indy 500) both struggling to find their feet on Friday and finishing 19th and 20th on the grid respectively.

That's still better than Ed Carpenter, usually something of an oval specialist but not finding the pace here and ending up in 21st spot but still faster than Ganassi's Charlie Kimball and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal.

Slowest in qualifying was Tony Kanaan's KV Racing team mate Simona de Silvestro, who ended up two seconds adrift of the pole time in her speed trial.

“We struggled a bit in qualifying,” admitted de Silvestro. “This morning was awesome; the car was really hooked up. Then when we pretty much went out with the same settings and it was really loose.

"We struggled with over-steer and stuff like that the whole time in the second session," she continued. "We adjusted to that for qualifying and now we have a little bit too much under-steer. So the changes we made, they worked, but I don't think we're quite there. I think we have to go in between and hopefully during the race it's going to come to us a little more," she added.

Everyone will see for themselves whether such hopes are well founded when the race itself starts at 3.40pm local time, 9.40pm BST.

See also: Qualifying times | Practice 2 times | Practice 1 times


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