NASHVILLE (Aug. 7)—Small triumphs. For Dalton Kellett, qualifying in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix was just that.
Yesterday, Kellett missed the 75-minute practice session on the brand new, 2.17 mile-narrow street course in the shadow of the Tennessee Titans football stadium. A wiring issue which came to light on his installation lap caused him to miss the valuable seat time.
In this afternoon’s 45-minute practice he did well to not spin out or hit the wall which many of the veterans did over the last two days as they tried to figure the right lines around the bumpy 11-turn temporary street course.
After the first round of qualifying for the 27-car field, Kellett posted the 19th quickest time which is a career best for him and the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.
“We just finished qualifying here at the Music City Grand Prix and I think it was my best qualifying so far on a road course this year so happy with that,” said the 27-year-old Canadian. “It was a good improvement from practice 2 and having missed practice 1, we’ve just been playing catch up.”
Kellett, who had veteran driver Ryan Briscoe as his driver coach this weekend, was also quick to credit his teammate Sebastien Bourdais for getting him up to speed.
“It was really helpful last night going over stuff with Seb, looking at onboard, looking at data and getting some input on car positioning for lines and stuff, so that’s definitely been a big help as far as getting up to speed,” said Kellett. “The car felt good. We’re really just fighting for traction overall. It’s pretty slippery in that back section as you go over the bridge and into those tight couple of areas, so just trying to manage that while still having a car that’s balanced for the rest of the lap. Overall, it’s feeling pretty good. Looking forward to some long runs tomorrow and we’ll see how our fuel milage is in warmup and go from there for the race.”
On the other side of the spectrum was Bourdais, who was dejected after showing some speed in the second practice session where he was fifth quickest. On the Firestone primary black tires in qualifying, Bourdais was second quickest in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet but when the team switched to the softer (and faster) alternate compound red-rimmed tires, Bourdais could not get a good lap in. He will start 16th on the grid, having finished eighth in the group of 14.
“It’s not good. That’s all, nothing else to say,” said the four-time INDYCAR champion afterwards. “The car felt pretty decent on blacks (tires) and then didn’t change anything, and it got loose on reds. I don’t know. We can’t seem to get a read on the car or at least get consistent reads and understand what’s going on, so just hit and miss all the time.
“I just wish that I could bring some results to those guys and it’s just not happening. Can’t seem to find the sweet spot, been overshooting, undershooting and it’s very frustrating. That’s the name of the game. Tomorrow’s another day, we’re going to see what we can do.”
Colton Herta won the pole with a blistering pace of 1 minute, 13.68 second lap which was nearly six-tenths faster than outside pole sitter Scott Dixon’s time. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist and Romain Grosjean.
The teams have a 30-minute warmup tomorrow at 1pm ET. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN with an official start at 5:30 ET. However, the broadcast may start at 5:20pm ET according to pre-race notes.