Defending race winner Simon Pagenaud in the No.22 Menards Chevrolet will start tonight’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway from the front row alongside pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais.
The Frenchman who took his maiden oval win here last season set a qualifying speed of 188.148MPH and speaking following the session, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar champion said:
It was fun. What a phenomenal qualifying session for our team. We were mid pack, and I knew we would go faster at the end. When you see the lap time hold on, you hope. The hope was strong. Congratulations Seb (Sebastien Bourdais). Very cool that we have a French front row on an oval. It’s rare. It’s very cool for him, too. He’s obviously having great success right now. Well deserved. It’s good for him, but we’re friends and want to beat each other really bad. He got me today, I’ll try to get him tomorrow. But the conditions were a lot easier this afternoon. This morning was super tough. Very, very difficult, very greasy. The cars were sliding around, which actually I thought was good because driving was really difficult.This afternoon with the temperature going down for qualifying, it got better, everybody got better. It was easier to drive. I would say qualifying was not as challenging as this morning practice. I think the race is going to be quite similar to qualifying. The cars are fun to drive. So far I love it. Hopefully, we can bring another trophy.
Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Chevrolet starts the race from third place on the grid and speaking after setting a two lap average speed of 186.852MPH, the Australian commented by saying:
In practice, the track temperatures were really high and we were having massive lifts. During qualifying, the track was just totally different and the car was really stuck. It felt really good. It is just a very different condition because all of the downforce comes from the floor. When the track gets hot, it loses a lot. I am hoping tomorrow night we can open a second lane because if that happens, it will make the racing great. Otherwise it is a single line and it makes it tough. So hopefully, early on people will go up for a second lane and then it starts rubbering in as the race progresses
Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden in the No.1 Verizon Chevrolet will start the race from seventh place having set a qualifying speed of 185.279MPH and speaking following the session, the Tennessee native commented by saying:
The grip was good. Simon (Pagenaud) and Will (Power) did good laps, but I had a lot of understeer. I think we had a good shot there. We tried to do what we could after practice. We didn’t have the best first practice session, but we’ve got speed in this car. As you can see with Pagenaud and Power, they did a great job. Hopefully, they hold on and we will get a Team Penske pole position here, but just missed it there. (Turn) 3 and 4 were really the worst spot for me, so I think if we get that cleaned up and really focus on our race car then hopefully tomorrow we can capitalize.