Marco Andretti’s pace on his final lap of qualifying for the first race of this year’s doubleheader event in Detroit was more than enough to secure the pole, despite challenges from Robert Wickens and Ryan Hunter-Reay during his own session and fast laps from Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi in Group 1.
In the closing minutes of the second 12-minute qualifying session, Wickens and Hunter-Reay asserted themselves atop the running order, but both were slower than Dixon from the group that began the two-session qualifying procession at 10:55 a.m. EDT.
With the fastest driver across both sessions being named the pole sitter and earning his group the odd-numbered positions on the grid for Race 1, Andretti overcame rookie Wickens and his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay on a blisteringly fast final lap of the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park to land atop the Group 2 results.
At 1:14.8514, Andretti’s lap was more than a full second short of the track record set by Takuma Sato last year, but it put him 0.5672 clear of Dixon who was quickest in Group 1.
Quite comfortably, Andretti earned his first pole on a road or street course and will lead the field to the green flag to begin the first of two 70-lap Verizon IndyCar Series races to be held this weekend in the Motor City.
The feat marks the 31-year-old American driver’s first pole since Pocono Raceway in 2013 and extended the streak of new Verizon P1 Award winners through seven instances of qualifying in 2018.
In his bid to win his first race since the series’ 2011 visit to Iowa Speedway — 115 races ago — Andretti will face immediate challenge from Dixon, who will start second. Along with Andretti, Dixon earned one championship point for being the fastest driver in his group.
Wickens qualified with the third-fastest lap, well ahead of the next rookie on the grid: Zach Veach, who will start 16th after lapping 1.4643 off Andretti’s pace. Rossi will start alongside Wickens on Row 2.
Hunter-Reay and Will Power, winner of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, will occupy the third row as Race 1 gets underway, with Power being the third-fastest driver in Group 1 despite making light contact with the wall in his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.
Circuit record holder Sato will roll off seventh, ahead of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal plus James Hinchcliffe and Max Chilton who rounded out the top 10.
The ninth row of the Race 1 grid will be filled by Dale Coyne Racing’s Honda duo, with Sebastien Bourdais setting the 17th-best lap overall to qualify one spot better than IndyCar newcomer Santino Ferrucci who is now set for his debut race in North America’s premier open-wheel championship in the No. 19 Honda.
Live television coverage of the weekend’s first race will open on ABC at 3:30 p.m. before the green flag flies 20 minutes later.