Graham Rahal broke an eight-year pole position drought in style this morning, setting a Raceway at Belle Isle Park track record to win the P1 Award and first starting position for today’s first race of the 2017 Detroit Grand Prix.
Rahal, driving the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsforTroops.com Honda, scorched around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street course in 1 minute, 13.9681 seconds (114.374 mph). It bettered the record of 1:14.0379 set last year by Simon Pagenaud.
It is the third pole position in Rahal’s 11-year Indy car career, but first, since he was the top qualifier at Kansas Speedway in April 2009. It also marks the first Verizon IndyCar Series pole position for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing since Scott Sharp took the honor at Texas Motor Speedway 10 years ago.
“It’s a little uncharted territory for me the last handful of years,” Rahal said. “We’re used to having to charge from the back. This is a pretty welcomed sight.”
Qualifying consisted of two groups receiving 12 minutes of track time each instead of the typical three rounds of knockout qualifying seen at Verizon IndyCar Series street- and road-course events. Rahal established the standard in Group 1.
Helio Castroneves clocked a lap of 1:13.8901 (114.494 mph) in the second group that would have won the pole, but was penalized by INDYCAR for not reducing his speed in the area of a local yellow and had his fast lap negated. Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) brought out the local caution in the Turn 7 area of the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street course. Per Rule 188.8.131.52 of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book, other drivers must decrease their speed by at least 15 percent when traveling through a local yellow area. INDYCAR stewards ruled that Castroneves did not obey the rule.
Castroneves’ next-best lap in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet of 1:14.0414 was still good enough to be fastest in his group, so he will start outside Rahal on Row 1 in this afternoon’s race. Rahal and Castroneves each earned a championship point for being fastest in their groups.