AVONDALE, La. (April 11, 2015) – Faced with starting deep in the field for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana after spinning out early during a wet Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying session, points leader Juan Pablo Montoya benefitted from a rainout that promoted him to the front of the grid.
Due to the cancelled session, the starting grid for the April 12 race at NOLA Motorsports Park will be set by entrant points, per INDYCAR rules. Since Montoya won the only race thus far in 2015 – the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 – he will start up front for the debut event on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn permanent road course outside New Orleans. The driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was well aware of his good fortune.
“It kind of gave me a little smile,” Montoya said of the rainout, “but it is what it is. … We were lucky, but at the same time, that’s why you lead the points. When you have days like this, it will pay off.”
Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and Montoya’s teammate, will start on the outside of Row 1 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet by virtue of his second-place St. Petersburg finish. Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) and Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) will occupy Row 2. When they take the green flag for the race, it will mark the 296th career start for Kanaan and 297th for Castroneves, with Kanaan also extending his Indy car record for consecutive starts to 235.
Fueled by the first victory of the season and strong starting positions among his teammates, Montoya feels prepared for the 75-lap race.
“I’m normally pretty good in the rain,” the 39-year-old Colombian and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner said. “Today we struggled, but it is what it is. We think we know what happened and we made a change based on how you’re thinking you’re going to be good here and it wasn’t. … I felt we had a pretty good car (in practice). I still feel like to win the race we need a tenth or two (of a second), to be a little quicker. We’re just going to make some changes for tomorrow and we’ll see what happens with the weather. That’s the big question mark.”
Teams will have a final chance to dial in their cars in the April 12 warm-up session at 11 a.m. ET. Broadcast coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the green flag to be waved at approximately 2:45 p.m.
Clauson Planning to Complete ‘Indiana Double’ in May
Bryan Clauson, who will drive the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing entry in next month’s Indianapolis 500, plans to complete his own racing double May 24 by also racing in the sprint car race at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway that night. The Kokomo Klassic will run on the quarter-mile clay oval about an hour north of Indianapolis.
“I’m excited to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kokomo Speedway on the same day,” said Clauson, the USAC Silver Crown, sprint car and midgets star whose lone Indy 500 start to date came in 2012. “Kokomo’s my absolute favorite place to be on a Sunday night and I’m always telling people to get out there, so I’m pretty pumped to be running this double.”
Sir Patrick Stewart, best known for his roles in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the X-Men film franchise, will serve as grand marshal for the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19. The acclaimed stage and screen actor is a racing enthusiast who competed in the 2002 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on the streets of Long Beach. Adrian Fernandez, an 11-time Indy car race winner, will serve as the Verizon IndyCar Series race’s honorary starter. … Boyd Gaming Corporation has partnered with CFH Racing for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. One of the nation’s largest casino entertainment companies, Boyd Gaming will have two of its local properties represented on the No. 67 Chevrolet driven by Josef Newgarden. … Pole sitter Nico Jamin got the jump at the start and led all 11 laps of the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda race, winning by 2.0124 seconds over Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Aaron Telitz in the first of two races this weekend. … The Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires race was postponed until Sunday, meaning both races of the ladder series’ doubleheader weekend will take place on the same day.
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I thought we were better than 10th in the wet, I just can only go as quick as the spray ahead of me because I couldn’t see. I start 10th on points, and would have been 10th based on what little running we did do – so it was a toss up either way. We’ll work hard tomorrow and make something happen from there.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “It was wet. So we had issues with the dry and in wet. The team is doing a phenomenal job. The Hitachi car was actually very consistent, but unfortunately it was consistent in the back. The good news is, it sounds like the race is going to be wet and we have some stuff we could have done. For me, I couldn’t see very well. I was actually following Juan Pablo (Montoya) until he spun out and I said ‘Oh, no man, you were my reference.’ It is just one of those things. We have two of our boys in the hunt. Roger will have to throw very good strategy on Sunday and see what happens.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): “It’s really a shame we didn’t get qualifying in today. The weather just hasn’t been cooperative for us this weekend here at NOLA. Our Brita car was fast though. We paced the practice session and were in a position to advance in the limited qualifying session we ran so I guess we did the best we could today. Hopefully the weather is better for tomorrow and we can get the race in for the fans.”
FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Yes, well, it is raining as everybody can see! But seriously, it has been difficult driving this qualifying session in the rain because I had no reference and zero kilometers in this car in the rain. It is much better under braking in the wet than cars I’ve raced in the past. The positive thing is that we are getting closer and closer to the other top cars. I would be happy to race in the rain tomorrow or in the dry. I think the most important thing to me is to have it clear one way or the other. Hopefully the weather won’t put as many question marks on the day as it did today.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Again the result of St. Petersburg and starting the season well becomes even more important. Regarding today, I think the right call was to do what they did and cancel the rest of the session. From my point of view we have a good car on the wet. So if tomorrow we have a wet race, I am confident and looking forward to having a good race.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I thought we made the car better in the morning because we were quite a bit closer to the top speed in the dry track conditions compared to yesterday. We closed that gap by almost 120%. We still have to find some pace but we’re in the ballpark and we have one more warm-up to fine-tune that gap to the front. We’ll be starting on points, so we start eighth and hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Well that qualifying in the wet was difficult. I think I could have done a bit better but I was aquaplaning a lot. It seemed to get a bit more difficult towards the end when I was pushing for the top 6. It will be interesting to see what the weather is like tomorrow. I won my race last year in the rain so it might help us but who knows.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I think we are heading in a right direction… disappointed we didn’t get to finish qualifying in the rain because I think the DHL car was pretty quick – we were second in our group (when the session was called for rain). I think with another shot at it, we could have had a shot at the pole. We’ll see. Tomorrow will be interesting with the weather as well.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “The No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet has just been so good all weekend here and it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to continue with qualifying to see what it could do in the rain. I’ve had some luck in the past driving in the rain on race day and I expect that’s probably what it will look like tomorrow, so I’m ready to go. We’ll still start third tomorrow which isn’t bad at all, but I really wanted that pole position here and I felt like we had a really good shot at it.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution / Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “I thought the COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records car was good today. We had a great practice session finishing P5 and I was excited for qualifying. With the rain we obviously didn’t get to show what the car was capable of but I guess the silver lining was that we know we have a fast car. We’ll just have to use that speed tomorrow, pass some cars, be patient with traffic and have a good result.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m mostly disappointed for the fans that we couldn’t make it all the way through qualifying. NOLA Motorsports Park has done such a great job of making sure they’re putting on a good event for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Team Chevy aero kits ran really well in the rain and we had great grip. There were some puddles where we were hydroplaning, but any time you get cars this fast on a wet surface that’ll happen. Overall I was happy with the car and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s unfortunate that we have to start on entrant points, but if there’s one thing my team does well it’s fighting back to overcome obstacles.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader): “We were lucky, but at the same time that’s why you need the points, when you have days like this, it will pay off. You know, we try something a little different for qualifying, and we made a mistake there with the set up, but it is what it is. I think our car was actually pretty good. I didn’t get to run the entire practice session in the morning. Like I put new tires on my fast lap I got, the red flag came out, and on the lap I was actually up to the point I was running I was on pace with Simon, and Simon was P3 or whatever he was, so I thought we had a pretty good car. You know, I still feel like to win the race, I feel like we need a tenth or two to be a little quicker. Going to make some changes for tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens with the weather now. That is the big question mark. I think INDYCAR did a great job today making an effort to run the qualifying. I think that was a ballsy call, and I think that’s what it takes. I think it was great.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Today was really a shame. We were looking okay after today’s practice when we were P6. I think in the rain, after the first qualifying, I was feeling really good, really strong for the qualifying in the wet. Tomorrow we start 14th so we’ll see what happens.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It’s a shame we couldn’t run the whole session, this is actually a very fun track in the rain. There’s just some drainage issues. It’s a little difficult with the pooling of water in areas, so you get some hydroplaning. I think our car was great. We’ve had good cars here since rolling off the truck and I think they were good in the rain. If it rains tomorrow, we would be alright as we were pretty quick. It’s just a matter of if we would be able to make the race work with the drainage. But hopefully we don’t get any rain tomorrow and it just makes it a lot easier on everyone. I think we’re in a good position to try and attack and get a good result tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “I really hate it for the fans that came out today because they didn’t get a chance to see a full qualifying session. Once the lightning came it was pretty apparent that we wouldn’t get back out as it was really starting to rain at that time. If we race in the rain tomorrow I feel really good about my Penske Truck Rental Chevy, based on how it drove today. We still have a few things we can do to better prepare for the wet. We’ll do our best to control the things that are in our control.”
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “You hate to start an inaugural race with a rain-shortened qualifying session, but you have to give credit to INDYCAR. They did everything they could to get qualifying in. I was fairly happy with the Verizon Chevy in the wet and would’ve liked to finish all the rounds. We will start the race from a great spot, though, and we will deal with whatever Mother Nature throws our way tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): “I didn’t get much time on track (in qualifying) so I don’t have much to say about the session. I was just trying to get a gap to attack and do a lap. The car actually felt pretty good on the few turns I did but unfortunately the fans came out today and we didn’t put on a show for them which is disappointing. I think we will be okay starting 11th. This team can work hard, give me some good stops to move forward and I will try to make some good restarts and we will move our way forward.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Today was pretty disappointing – I think the whole day hasn’t been great. We’ll have a long race tomorrow, but hopefully we can make things happen during the race. I think we’re going to work a lot on the race setup and myself and we should be good for the race.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Disappointing day. We’re not performing well under the dry track conditions and it’s the same in the wet at this track, so we need to find out what’s wrong with it and make changes.”