May 9, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT
Luck clearly was not on Andretti Autosport’s side today in a rain-soaked qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In hindsight, that became obvious early when all five Andretti drivers – full-timers Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz, plus one-off Franck Montagny – were listed as part of the first group of qualifiers. Only two of them, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe, advanced to the second round.
Then, Hinchcliffe was unable to get into the Firestone Fast Six, leaving Hunter-Reay as the sole Andretti competitor to battle for the pole. For a moment, it looked as if it would turn out alright as Hunter-Reay leaped to P1 with just a couple of minutes left.
But shortly after doing that, Hunter-Reay lost control of his No. 28 DHL Honda coming out of Turn 14, spun out, and had a long slide into the front-stretch wall.
Luckily, Hunter-Reay hopped out of the car intact. Unluckily, his crash brought out the red flag, which cost him his two quickest laps in the Fast Six per IndyCar rules and gave the pole to KV Racing Technology’s Sebastian Saavedra.
“In the wet, you have to go for it,” said Hunter-Reay, who officially qualified third after having his best laps scratched. “We did a good enough time for P1. There’s a very fine line before you step over it. It’s just part of the game.
“I dinged up the right rear there. The most work is going to be done with the exhaust and things like that. It was just one whack. I had some time to head backwards for a while. It wasn’t a hard hit. The standing water was a pretty big issue.”
But at least Hunter-Reay will still be starting toward the front in tomorrow’s 82-lap race around the revamped, 2.4-mile road course at IMS.
The rest of his teammates will have to climb from mid-pack. Hinchcliffe qualified 11th, followed by Andretti in 13th, rookie Munoz in 19th, and Montagny in 21st.
Andretti’s best lap in Group 1 was less than one one-hundredth of a second off of sixth place, which would have gotten him into the second round of qualifying.
“I think it was a team decision to go out because we were worried about the weather,” he said after that excruciatingly close call.
“We plateaued too early and the car got better at the end, so we’re sitting on the outside looking in on this hundredth of a second…I’m losing sleep over this.”