Ryan Hunter-Reay sets track record, wins Sao Paulo 300 pole position
SAO PAULO (AP) American Ryan Hunter-Reay set a track record Saturday to win the pole position for IndyCar's Sao Paulo 300.
The defending IndyCar Series champion was timed in 1 minute, 20.430 seconds for a lap at the Anhembi street track. He was 0.307 seconds ahead of Venezuela's EJ Viso and 0.461 in front of Scotland's Dario Franchitti.
Home-crowd favorite Tony Kanaan was fourth despite an injured right hand that caused him problems throughout the day. He will be participating in his 200th consecutive race, extending the second-longest run in the series. His KV Racing owner, Jimmy Vasser, holds the record with 211.
Points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power, winner of all three previous races in Sao Paulo, didn't make it past the first round of qualifying after a mechanical problem with the car of James Jakes kept them from posting a fast lap. Castroneves, another local favorite, will start 18th and Power 22nd.
Hunter-Reay has started on the front row in three of the first four races this season.
His time was nearly a second faster than Power's qualifying lap in 2012. The temporary Anhembi circuit was considerably faster this year after organizers lowered some of the curbs and widened the track at the first curve to try to reduce the number of accidents there during restarts.
Power, dubbed the King of Sao Paulo, dominated both practices earlier in the day and looked poised for another good starting position. The Australian was the pole winner in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg and was in the front row in Alabama and in Long Beach.
But he and Castroneves were left out of contention when Jakes' car stopped on the track with an apparent engine failure. Jakes left the car when it appeared the engine was on fire, forcing race officials to stop the section when the Penske drivers were in the middle of their fast lap.
"It was definitely disappointing for us," Power said. "We got a red flag and couldn't do a lap. But it's a long race and it's a nice track which will give us a chance to move up."
Castroneves said "it was a shame" he didn't have a chance to try to fight for the pole.
"I was a bit surprised, all we had to do was finish the lap, I'm not sure why we were not allowed to finish it," he said. "He (Jakes) was out of the way, the car wasn't in a dangerous position. Maybe they had to do that because he left the car."
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion, came to Brazil uncertain if he could handle the pain from the injury he sustained in a crash near the end of the Long Beach race. The hand was sore and swollen, and he needed ice treatment every time he left the car Saturday.
Power is in need of a good result Sunday after struggling in the first three races of the year, leaving him eighth in the drivers' standings. He hasn't won in 14 races, since his victory in Sao Paulo last year.
Castroneves, who has three consecutive top-10 finishes this season in the best start of his career, enters Sunday's race with a narrow six-point lead over Takuma Sato, who won the Long Beach race and will start 12th on Sunday.
"I'm shocked, really, I was very hopeful," Castroneves said. "We will have to change the strategy now, but let's move on. We will remain confident and we will do what we can on Sunday."
Rookie Tristan Vaultier of France crashed three times, including during qualifying. He went over the curb at the first curve and wasn't able to make the turn, hitting the wall hard.
"I tried too hard," he said.