PHOENIX—Tony Kanaan used his experience to negotiate a big wiggle on the first hot lap of his two lap qualifying run and still managed to salvage the lap and qualify ninth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. His rookie teammate Matheus “Matt” Leist will make his first IndyCar start on an oval from the 16th position.
"That was a helluva save so instead of talking about qualifying, let’s talk about the save!” said Kanaan, who was second fastest in the hour-long practice session earlier in the day. “The car’s in one piece. We were expecting the track to change but it gained more front grip than expected and that’s why we got loose. If it wasn’t for that, we would have been a couple tenths quicker. We would have picked up several more positions but I don’t think we had a car for the pole. But I’m really proud of my guys, we’ve worked really hard. We’re in the top 10, so we’ll take it and go from there.”
Kanaan posted a two-lap average speed of 184.595mph around the one mile track while Leist, who was the first out to qualify, posted an average speed of 181.817mph. Leist had been ninth in practice out of the 23 cars on track.
“The car is good,” said Leist. “The first lap was a bit tough because I didn’t know how the car would be. It’s tough too because it’s my first oval track [in an Indycar]. Practice was tough because the track was so slippery and then we go right into qualifying. The car was better than it was in practice which means we made some progress. I’m looking forward to the race. We have 250 laps and it’s going to be a crazy tough race, probably the most difficult race I’ve ever been in. Hopefully we can get a top 10. Or maybe a top 5.”
The final qualifier and current points leader Sebastien Bourdais claimed the pole with an average speed 188.539mph. Second through fifth were Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.
The race will be broadcast tomorrow evening starting at 9pm ET on NBC Sports Network.