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Qualifying Report: INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif.—Under sunny skies and with temperatures in the low 70s, Tony Kanaan qualified the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for a record-setting 300th consecutive IndyCar race in what will be the final appearance for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the beautiful Sonoma Raceway.

Kanaan will start 18th after posting a time of one minute, 18.5966 seconds (109.241mph). Kanaan drove the car on the edge and despite starting in the second half of the 25-car field, he took personal pride in his qualifying run.

Kanaan with Crew Chief Dave Higuera (L) and Technical Director Eric Cowdin (R).

“It was the lap of my life,” Kanaan revealed. “It’s a shame you do such a good lap with what you’ve got and you start where we are. I’m not saying I’m happy where we’re starting but I’m happy that we found something that we can work on for tomorrow and during the off season to make this car better. But I’m also happy that I really put a good lap together, that is satisfying for me [personally]. It’s nice when I can make the difference. That’s why we’re a team, if the car’s not there, I can make the car go there. It was my best lap of the weekend and one of my best qualifying [laps] ever. Not of the result but putting a perfect lap together. That’s a shame because sometimes it doesn’t mean that the perfect lap that you put together will be the fastest lap on the race track but it’s the fastest lap of your limits and what you had in your hands. We’ll keep fighting. I don’t give up, that’s not in my vocabulary. I’m not giving up.”

Matheus “Matt” Leist was not quite as happy with his car and admitted the past two days have been tough on the team as they struggled to find the right balance in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet.

“It was a tough qualifying for the ABC Supply car 4,” Leist said after posting a time of one minute, 18.9665 seconds (108.730mph). “We just missed the pace today, the whole weekend to be honest. We were trying a different setup for qualifying but it didn’t work very well for us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re going to debrief with the team, see what Tony tested, see what he likes, what he doesn’t and focus on tomorrow’s race. We might have a shot to have a great race tomorrow. It’s the last one of the year so we’ll try to finish on a high note.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Verizon P1 Award with his pole-winning run of 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds (110.605mph). Rounding out the Firestone Fast 6 were Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi.

Kanaan spoke to the media yesterday about reaching his personal ‘Ironman’ milestone of 300 straight starts in a sport where injury is a possibility every day of every race weekend. His streak began over 17 years ago at Portland, Ore. on June 24, 2001.

“Oh, as a driver, you don't think about stats and that kind of stuff,” Kanaan shared. “I don't have this habit of looking at stuff. But obviously, I've been around for a long time. I feel very fortunate that I'm still able to do what I love and be around. I love IndyCar. I was made -- my name was made in IndyCar, and it feels great to be -- it's funny to watch Colton Herta and Pato walking out [of the media center], but I was Colton's first sponsor in his go-kart when Bryan [Herta] was my teammate. So I don't know if I feel humbled or I feel old that I can tell Bryan today that I raced with him and his son. But it's an awesome feeling. Obviously I still enjoy it.”

And as one who never gives up, he maintains an optimism about his chances in the race tomorrow.

“You know, we're having a challenging year,” the 43-year-old said. “We knew that was going to be difficult for us. Right now I think this race is wide open with the nature of the track, the weather, the wind changing between morning and the afternoon. I think it's going to be an interesting race. I mean, tire deg [degradation] has been a big issue. Everybody is complaining about grip. Not the tire's fault, but I think it's a combination of our downforce, the tires and the type of track. I think it's wide open for anybody. Last year we saw Pagenaud winning with the strategy of four stops instead of three. Some people are going to try to save fuel. I mean, it's wide open. And it's a double-points race, so there are four guys going for the championship, but all the other 20 are going for a win, so it will be interesting.”

The 85-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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