Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Sebastian Saavedra claimed his first pole position in the IndyCar Series with a surprise win in Friday's rain- soaked qualifying for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar champion and winner of the most recent race two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park, held the provisional pole before he lost control and slid off the wet track while exiting the final turn at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. Hunter-Reay slammed into barrier. The red-flag was displayed with a few minutes left in the final round of qualifying (Fast Six).
Per IndyCar's rulebook, Hunter-Reay's two fastest laps during the 10-minute round were disallowed since he forced the red flag. That allowed Saavedra, who drives the No. 17 car for KV AFS Racing, to move atop the leaderboard. He had made a lap in 1 minute, 23.8822 seconds. The 23-year-old Colombian scored his maiden IndyCar pole in his 42nd start.
"I love the rain," Saavedra said. "It was crazy at first, because we didn't know what to expect from the track, if it was going to be wet or if it was going to be dry."
Saavedra became the fourth different pole winner in as many IndyCar races this season. He joined Takuma Sato (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Hunter-Reay (Long Beach) and Will Power (Barber).
"We were comfortable yesterday [Thursday practice], as it got hotter, but we just needed to work a little bit more, especially with the rain," Saavedra added. "We made a huge leap this morning [final practice], and then the whole session was just weird. It started to rain and went from wet, to dry, to super dry, to super wet. I loved it."
Prior to this road course race at Indianapolis, Saavedra's best starting position in an IndyCar event was sixth, which came in June 2013 at Milwaukee. His best start in a road/street course race was ninth, occurring last year at both St. Petersburg and Barber.
Saavedra's career-best finish in an IndyCar race is eighth (Streets of Baltimore last September).
Rookie Jack Hawksworth will share the front row with Saavedra after posting a lap in 1:24.0788.
Hunter-Reay ended up finishing third.
"We definitely gave that one away," Hunter-Reay said. "Since we got here, it's been dry-wet-dry-wet. It was changing conditions, and it was a lot of fun, but it ended the wrong way, so congrats to Saavedra - good job and good pace.
"It's going to be a really great championship race, and there will be a lot of passing, especially with these long straights. There will be a lot of different strategies on downforce and tires."
Simon Pagenaud qualified fourth, followed by Power, the current points leader, and Scott Dixon, the defending IndyCar champion. Power holds an 18-point advantage over Hunter-Reay. Pagenaud is 33 markers out of the lead, while Dixon trails by 38.
Sebastien Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves were sixth through 10th, respectively, in qualifying.
The inaugural GP of Indianapolis, an 82-lap, 200-mile race, is scheduled for Saturday, with a start time of 3:50 p.m. ET.