Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 28, 2012 – After ending Saturday’s morning practice session in the top 5 on the time sheet, handling issues will force Simon Pagenaud to start 17th in Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Driving the No. 77 Coastal.com/Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Pagenaud turned a lap of 1:22.5345 seconds at 110.749 mph, dropping 13 spots from the morning IZOD IndyCar Series practice session.
“We unloaded, and the car wasn’t easy to drive and it took a lot of work to improve it, which we did,” said Pagenaud. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as we saw everyone else improve as well. In qualifying, the field is so competitive at the moment that you can’t really miss. Fortunately, we are just a little bit off, but it’s enough to put us at the back of the grid.”
Entering Sao Paulo third in points, the championship is definitely on Pagenaud’s mind after a poor qualifying day.
“It’s one of those days that tests you in a championship,” said Pagenaud back in the Sao Paulo paddock area. “You have to see if you can recover and make the next day better. The goal is to score as many points as possible tomorrow and come back to the front in the race. We are going to work on the car tonight and try to make it a little easier to drive and more consistent. We should be OK tomorrow.”
If Pagenaud has any pull with Mother Nature, he’ll definitely be “OK” Sunday. The driver has extensive wet weather racing in high-horsepower cars. “I would have loved for it to rain today, but the forecast was way off because we didn’t see any rain today,” said Pagenaud. “In our position, I’m hoping it rains tomorrow. It will be a big help. I’d love to have a rain race as well.
Added Pagenaud, “Most importantly, Honda has done a great job on our engine so far this year. I’m very happy with the drivability and the power of it. The guys at HPD are doing a great job.”
The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team shares the same optimistic and positive attitude its driver has after the bad qualifying performance.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing qualifying session, but tomorrow is another day come rain or shine, and there’s a good chance of both tomorrow,” said Rob Edwards. “It will definitely be a three-stop race, which means it will also be a good strategy race. We’ll work hard on the car tonight, and make sure the No. 77 Coastal.com car is back up front Sunday.”
Team Penske’s Will Power continued that team’s dominance in IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying this season. His lap of 1.21.4045 seconds at 112.151 mph bettered rival Dario Franchitti’s lap of 1:21.4485 seconds at 112.090 mph, a difference of just .040.
All three Team Penske drivers – Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves – have won poles this year, with Power winning the last two (Long Beach and Sao Paulo). Power’s pole Saturday was also a new Sao Paulo track record and was his 26th career pole in IndyCar history, tying him with Franchitti in 9th overall.
Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will start third with a lap of 1:21.8545 seconds at 111.534 mph. It will be Dixon’s best start of the season.
Starting next to Dixon in Row 2 will be Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe with a lap of 1:21.9956 seconds at 111.343 mph. The Canadian is the only driver to make all four Firestone Fast Six qualifying sessions in 2012.
Rounding out the top five on the starting grid will be Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay at 1:22.2408 seconds at 111.011 mph and Coyne Racing’s Just Wilson with a lap of 1:22.2681 seconds at 110.749 mph.
Qualifying track records have been broken at the first four IZOD IndyCar Series events of 2012.
The 75-lap Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle will air live on NBC Sports Network Sunday, April 29 at 11 a.m. ET.