Just six days after he scored runner-up finish at Portland, Felix Rosenqvist delivered pole position for the sixth time in his IndyCar career, ahead of his final race with Arrow McLaren. He will be joined on the front row by Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, while Christian Lundgaard is kicking himself after losing his potentially faster lap with an error at the Corkscrew. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ace will start third.
Firestone Fast Six
Scott Dixon elected for fresh primary tires, going against the grain, with his rivals electing for used reds. McLaughlin’s first effort wasn’t enough to prevent his compatriot Dixon landing a 67.0171s to go top, but Josef Newgarden went fastest with a 66.7937s and then pitted.
Lundgaard looked set to topple him with his first flying lap but carried too much speed into the Corkscrew and ran wide. His next flyer did the job, but right behind him came Rosenqvist who set a 66.6416s. McLaughlin was marginally stronger until the exit of the Corkscrew and fell a mere 0.0097s short.
Newgarden wound up fourth, and it will be an all-Ganassi third row – Scott Dixon ahead of Alex Palou.
On primary tires, Alex Palou got down to a 67.4701s, 0.15 ahead of McLaughlin, but they were both pushed aside by Lundgaard’s 67.2786s and further still by Newgarden before everyone pitted for Firestone alternates.
Lundgaard produced a 66.4610s on the reds – 121.226mph – and lowered the track record for an IndyCar. McLaughlin was only 0.1s slower, just ahead of Palou, Rosenqvist, Dixon and Newgarden.
Not making it in were Juri Vips, Rinus VeeKay, Will Power, Romain Grosjean, Santino Ferrucci and Pato O’Ward. The last-named spun away his last chance with a trip into the gravel at Turn 4 on his last attempt.
Q1 Group 2
Helio Castroneves, who went out on reds straight away, caused a red flag with a spin into the Turn 3 sand trap after getting the left tires of his Meyer Shank Racing Honda on the outside curb. This ensures he will start from the rear of the field in what will probably be his final road course race in an IndyCar.
The subsequent pause gave teams and drivers a dilemma with 7m24s left – run on primaries a couple more laps and risk running out of time for alternate tires due to the red flags which had been so prevalent through testing and practice?
McLaughlin set the best time on primaries, 67.8193s, and he got pushed off top spot by Lundgaard and Kyle Kirkwood. Lundgaard’s second flyer was a sensational 66.8777s – 120.471mph – a new track record for an IndyCar around here. It lasted around one minute, because O’Ward in the Arrow McLaren Chevrolet snipped 0.0302s off that time to go top. Others to get through were Lundgaard, Palou and the three Penskes.
Q1 Group 1
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tom Blomqvist and Benjamin Pedersen all went out early on Firestone’s red sidwall tires, and Blomqvist went to the top for Meyer Shank Racing, with a 68.0315s, but he was usurped by three drivers on primaries, including Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist.
The reds took two to three laps to get up to operating temperature, despite the darkness of the track, and this became significant late in this Q1 Group 1 sector. Vips had just jumped to the top of the times with a new lap record of 67.1305s when Hunter-Reay brought out the red flag with a spin onto the pit straight. Those who were in the top six at the time were Vips, Rosenqvist, Grosjean, Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta, but although IndyCar allowed everyone at least one lap, would that be enough time for drivers to get their tires up to temp?
Yes, seemingly everyone improved — Dixon jumped to the top with a 67.002s ahead of Grosjean, Vips, Santino Ferrucci, Rosenqvist and VeeKay.
Surprise eliminations included two-time polesitter Herta – who was outqualified by a brilliant lap by Agustin Canapino – and Rossi. Sadly, for all their efforts, Vips, Ferrucci and Canapino will be getting six-place grid penalties.