Saavedra, competing in his 42nd Verizon IndyCar Series race, posted a best lap of 1 minute, 23.8822 seconds in the No. 17 AFS KV AFS Racing car. The first-year program is a collaboration between longtime Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights team owner Gary Peterson and KV Racing Technology co-owners Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven, who the Indianapolis 500 last May with Tony Kanaan behind the wheel.
"I love the rain," said Saavedra, of Bogota, Colombia, who will celebrate his 24th birthday June 2. "It was crazy at first because we didn’t know what to expect from the track – if it was going to be wet, if it was going to be dry. We were comfortable yesterday, as it got hotter, we just needed to work a little bit more – especially with the rain. We made a huge leap this morning 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."
Also a bit unexpected is series rookie Jack Hawksworth starting on the front row in the No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge car for BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian. He participated in the Firestone Fast Six at Long Beach, qualifying fifth and finishing 15th after being involved in a Lap 56 incident involving Hunter-Reay, and qualified eighth in the St. Petersburg opener.
Simon Pagenaud, who was quickest in the morning practice session and set the track record (1:09.6716) in Segment 1 of qualifying on dry pavement in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car, joins Hunter-Reay on Row 2. Series championship points leader Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, and reigning series champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry are on Row 3.
Hunter-Reay has qualified in the top three (one pole) in each of the races, though this time out he "gave that one away."
"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," Hunter-Reay said. "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. I think there will be a lot of (teams) mixing it up like you always do with the Verizon IndyCar Series."
ABC will telecast the race live (3:30 p.m. ET). Allen Bestwick is the chief announcer, with Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. the analysts. The race will be broadcast on IMS Radio Network affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213, www.indycar.com and INDYCAR 14 app (both in conjunction with real-time Timing & Scoring). Paul Page is the chief announcer.