Qualifying Report: MAVTV 500
Wade Cunningham stepped back into an Indy car for the first time Thursday since the May 26th Indianapolis 500 for a quick shakedown run. Friday, he qualified the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda in 23rd spot for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. However, because of an unapproved engine change, Cunningham will start 24th on the 26-car grid.
Cunningham’s two-lap average was 209.526 mph.
Cunningham had less than 40 laps in the car at speed -- in part due to an issue with the Honda engines in the morning practice which Honda wanted to rectify before the teams ran any more laps. He ran his fastest laps during his qualifying run. The first lap – a warmup lap—was 210.5 mph and his first qualifying lap was 210.4 mph. However, the second lap was slower – 208.6 mph and the average came to 209.5 mph.
“It’s not too bad-not great on the timesheets but it’s not too uncomfortable,” Cunningham said afterwards. “Obviously we’re just trying to make small gains for tomorrow and work on race setup. That was the first time we’d given it full welly with new tires. The winds had shifted a bit from this morning so the ends changed a little bit; I struggled with being loose in [Turn] 3 and a push at the other end, so it was a bit of a battle out there in qualifying. We missed the gearing as well so we lost a bit of momentum on that second lap and it killed us.”
In final practice, Cunningham spun going through Turns 1 and 2 and tagged the wall in Turn 2. He escaped uninjured but the car sustained damage to the right side suspension, undertray and nose assembly.
“I was exploring different lines on the track and I hadn't been that aggressive changing lanes. I just judged it on the seams of the track and got caught out,” Cunningham said.
The team worked until 1 a.m. repairing the car. Cunningham will have an installation lap this afternoon to check the car out since they also had to change the engine because of the accident.
Marco Andretti won the pole with a two-lap average speed of 216.7 mph; it was his first pole since Milwaukee in 2008. Title contenders Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay both had to take 10-spot grid penalties and will start 13th and 22nd respectively.
The 250-lap race around the 2-mile oval gets underway this evening with the race coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.