Bourdais battles weather, other cars to capture Mid-Ohio pole
Others slipped and slid, but Sebastien Bourdais persevered and even flourished during IndyCar qualifying Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
A noon downpour turned the 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit into a slippery strand of roadway, but Bourdais proved to be the best on rain tires. The French driver made it through the first two qualifying rounds and into the Fast Six.
"The last lap I knew I was shy and needed some more, so I just went for it and made it stick and that Mystic machine gave me everything it had and it was enough," Bourdais said.
It is the second pole of the season for Bourdais and the 33rd of his American open-wheel career, tying him with Dario Franchitti on the all-time list. The KVSH Racing driver ran a 1:24.161 for an average speed of 96.586 mph. It was almost 19 seconds slower than times posted in Saturday's dry morning practice.
The slippery track resulted in three stoppages in the first two qualifying sessions, making it hard for drivers to get one lap at speed let alone any rhythm.
"Obviously the conditions were really tricky," Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe said. "The cars just had no grip."
It certainly shook up the order for Sunday's Honda Indy 200. Series points leader Helio Castroneves and four-time Mid-Ohio winner Scott Dixon failed to get out of their first sessions and will start 15th and 22nd, respectively, in the 22-car field.
"Not only was it wet, there were so many yellows that we only got one timed lap in," Castroneves said. "At the end of the day it was the same for everyone. We were the first car out and tried some different lines. Sometimes that is not the best place to be. It gives the other guys some direction on where to run."
Castroneves will try to make the most of it in the race as he seeks his first IndyCar championship.
"We'll just have to keep working and hope the race tomorrow is better than qualifying," he said.
Bourdais, who won from the pole in the first race at Toronto, will start alongside Josef Newgarden, his best start on a road or street course for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan will start third, while Andretti Autosport teammates Carlos Munoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be fourth and fifth. Team Penske's Will Power starts sixth.
Power trails Castroneves by 13 points and Hunter-Reay is in third, 69 points behind in the drivers' standings, so Mid-Ohio could be a turning point in the championship.
"It's typical IndyCar," Power said. "It's all mixed up. You don't know who is going to be pole one week to the next. It's great racing. Hopefully we can get together and get a podium tomorrow, maybe a win."
There have been 10 different pole winners through 15 races this year.
Columbus-born Graham Rahal missed the Fast Six by one-thousandth of a second and will start seventh. Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports is fourth in the championship race and will start ninth. Marco Andretti is 16th and last year's Mid-Ohio winner, Charlie Kimball is 20th.