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A study in contrasts to last week at NOLA, there was qualifying yesterday that actually counted – a real plus for both the fans and series. Under sunny skies, before a decent crowd and with no controversies to speak of from race control, the three knockout rounds went off without a hitch. That is, except for recent race winner Hinch.
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At the end of the first knockout qualifying round the Ganassi boys hindered Hinchcliffe, at least in his view. Dixon ran off course and after a local yellow was displayed his team mate Kanaan slowed down in front of SPM’s Canadian funny man. Hinch waved an accusing hand towards Kanaan’s car and afterward said he was displeased starting 13th. He expressed anger at Kanaan, who’d been similarly held up by Bourdais in quals at NOLA, ironically. Rain mooted that penalty on Bourdais, and much to the Mayor’s chagrin no penalties were assessed yesterday.
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NBCSN’s Kelly Stavast asked a visibly upset Hinch about the incident. “Well, I mean I made a mistake on my fast lap, which you know ultimately put us out. But then we were on a quick lap at the end there and TK was just messing around. I mean he wasn’t watching his mirrors, teams knows [sic] what’s going on. Doesn’t matter, we ended up eighth but still, you don’t know what that time would have been. So I hope his time gets taken out – he deserves it. But, it doesn’t affect our – either way, I’m gutted. We should not be back here. We gotta stop doing this.”
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Our predicted pole winner Power along with another featured driver Coletti combined to blow that pick, as “Mad” Will starts from an unfamiliar 18th position right beside rookie Gabby “Pat” Chavez. Coletti will indeed be a driver to watch Sunday, though perhaps not for the reasons we envisioned. Seems after last week’s guard rail encounter and a couple of wall slaps already this weekend, the rookie from Monaco not only isn’t faster than Andretti (who starts 10th), but also has destroyed all the team’s wings, according the Kelly Stavast and Paul Tracy. Using a 2014 nose, Coletti will be running without the benefit of an aero kit and starting dead last today.
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Chevy took seven of the top ten starting positions even without the benefit of their winglets on stalks which were taken away by the series this week. Honda’s aero kits have undergone mandatory fortification as well, and it’s interesting that the required changes haven’t affected the manufacturer balance, at least in qualifying. Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified fourth as top Honda in class, expressing confidence in an interview afterward. Helio’s pole effort set a new track record, edging out our pick to win the race Juan Pablo Montoya. CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden starts sixth and needs a good result for his team. Finally, in Chip Ganassi-dom Dixie goes off third while Kanaan will be one to watch starting seventh on the grid.
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