Newgarden bags pole in Chevy’s backyard

Hondas outnumbered Chevrolets in the Firestone fast six four to two, but Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden with the clock having run out, beat Takuma Sato’s time by one tenth of a second to take his 16th IndyCar Series career pole and earn back to back poles at Belle Isle Park in Detroit with a lap time of 1.15.2153.

Speaking to NBC’s Marty Snider, Newgarden said: “I was about hitting the wall every lap, or every corner I should say. That was a good pole.”

Josef Newgarden celebrating the pole with his team (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Newgarden was the sole Penske driver to make the Firestone fast six and becomes the seventh different pole winner in seven races so far in this year’s championship. Newgarden said the bigger challenge for them is to convert the pole into a win on Sunday, something they have yet to do at Belle Isle although he did win the first of two 2019 races after starting second.

The fast six was all about the smaller teams as all four of the Daly Coyne Racing and Meyer Shank Racing cars made the fast six. Rookie David Malukas continued his strong performance for Dale Coyne Racing from practice to top the opening session of qualifying in group two and topped the charts again halfway through the fast 12 session with a time that put in him in the fast six for the very first time.

David Malukas qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

In the fast six, Malukas on a flying lap lost the back end in turn five and had to back out but still set a fast lap later to qualify sixth being only three tenth off fifth place Pato O’Ward. Speaking to NBC, Malukas said: “What an amazing car.”

His Dale Coyne Racing teammate Takuma Sato qualified second after an impressive run when he went to the top with a 1.15.3 with just over a minute to go in the fast six before Newgarden went faster in the final moments.

DCR with RWR’s Takuma Sato qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

The two Meyer Shank racing cars will make up the second row with Simon Pagenaud qualifying third and Hélio Castroneves qualifying fourth.

Round one of qualifying did not go so well for Newgarden’s teammate Will Power who missed out on the fast 12 by three tenths, qualifying 16th . On one of his flying laps, he was unintentionally disrupted by the wake of Álex Palou’s car. Palou also failed to make it out of the opening session, only qualifying 18th. Power, known as the pole master, said to NBC he has still yet to figure out a way to get it done in qualifying at Belle Isle but is optimistic about his chances of getting to the front in the race once again like last year.

Álex Palou (right) racing down to turn two in qualifying at Belle Isle (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The disappointment continues for McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist at Belle Isle as he blocked Jimmie Johnson coming out of the pits when Johnson was on a flying lap and was consequently penalized by being parked and had his time disallowed. He will now start 26th.

Felix Rosenqvist racing down to turn 12 in qualifying at Belle Isle (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

The fast 12 saw drivers experimenting between the primary and alternate tires as rubber was getting laid down fast and with grip lasting only for three laps on the alternate red tyres, it was uncertain which tyre compound was better to qualify with. Pagenaud topped the chart midway through the session on the primary black tyre with a 1.15.4 before Newgarden went second on sticker reds, only one tenth of Pagenaud’s time.

Qualifying had been going well for Andretti Autosport with three of their four cars making the fast 12, with Devlin DeFrancesco just missing out, but things suddenly went downhill for them. With less than five minutes to go, Alexander Rossi, who topped second practice, was 12th in the session while Colton Herta was seventh.

Colton Herta qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

The bottom six including Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were all on faster flying laps than the leaders as the track became increasingly rubbered in but then Romain Grosjean slapped the wall coming out of turn 12, and broke a toe link that caused his car to veer to the right before violently spinning around into the concrete wall in the final turn bringing out the red flag and ending the session, and consequently stopping his Andretti teammates from being able to progress into the fast six. A frustrated Grosjean said afterwards: “We sucked.”

During the fast 12, Dixon said he had to back up into Ericsson after having to slow down for Rossi and Pagenaud ahead that ultimately cost Ericsson and Dixon any chance of making the fast six.

Full qualifying results: 1st Josef Newgarden, 2nd Takuma Sato, 3rd Simon Pagenaud, 4th Hélio Castroneves, 5th Pato O’Ward, 6th David Malukas, 7th Colton Herta, 8th Marcus Ericsson, 9th Scott Dixon, 10th Scott McLaughlin, 11th Alexander Rossi, 12th Romain Grosjean, 13th Conor Daly, 14th Rinus VeeKay, 15th Kyle Kirkwood, 16th Will Power, 17th Santino Ferrucci, 18th Álex Palou, 19th Christian Lundgaard, 20th Jack Harvey, 21st Devlin DeFrancesco, 22nd Jimmie Johnson, 23rd Graham Rahal, 24th Tatiana Calderón, 25th Dalton Kellett, 26th Felix Rosenqvist.

Josef Newgarden and Takuma Sato will lead the field to green for the final Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle tomorrow at 3:45pm ET.

Featured Image: Josef Newgarden qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon breaks pole speed record and earns fifth Indy 500 pole

Scott Dixon set a sensational four-lap average of 234.046mph in the fast six to take his fifth Indy 500 pole, braking the Indy 500 pole speed record held by Scott Brayton’s 1996 233.718mph run. Dixon’s time was the second fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history, only coming behind Arie Luyendyk 1996’s bump day qualifying run of 236.986mph.

Scott Dixon qualifying (Photo by Lisa Hurley/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon was the last car to go out in the fast six and had teammate Alex Palou’s four-lap average of 233.499mph to beat for the pole. Dixon not only managed a 234mph plus average on his first lap but also his second with averages of 234.437mph and 234.162. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver earned back to back poles on Sunday, and is now second for all-time Indy 500 poles, only behind Rick Mears’s six.

Talking to NBC’s Marty Snider, the 2008 Indy 500 winner said: “This is what this place is about, it’s so amazing.”

Scott Dixon celebrating with the Indy 500 pole award (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Instead of the usual fast nine qualifying format, pole day was decided by two qualifying sessions that is used during the rest of the IndyCar season, the fast 12 followed by the fast six, for the first time.

In the fast 12, Jimmie Johnson, in turn one on lap one, understeered before getting a snap of oversteer and was mere inches from hitting the wall before evasively driving away from the wall in the short shoot. Johnson’s first lap was a 229.911 but by pedalling the throttle, came back to earn a four-lap average of 231.264mph, qualifying 12th. Johnson said to NBC that he had wanted to run full throttle for the entire first lap but the “tricky conditions” and “inexperience” caught him out.

Jimmie Johnson getting into his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on pit road (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Will Power, the sole Team Penske driver to make the fast 12, qualified 11th with a 231.534mph average but nearly hit the turn one wall twice on laps one and three. Sato qualified 10th with a consistent run of 231.670mph.

Romain Grosjean nearly smacked the turn one wall on lap two and appeared to be running light on downforce. The Indy 500 rookie managed to qualify 9th with a 231.999mph average. Talking to NBC afterwards he said “that was scary.”

The fight for making the fast six was very much on for the Arrow McLaren SP drivers of Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward. Rosenqvist’s tricky handling Chevrolet managed a 232.182mph that initially put him sixth but O’Ward went faster with a 232.705mph average. Neither would end up making the fast six as Rinus VeeKay, the last driver to go out after setting the quickest four-lap average on Saturday, would go second overall after setting a four-lap average of 233.249mph including a first lap of 234.099mph.

Rinus VeeKay qualifying (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

The top six from the fast 12 would be made up of four Chip Ganassi Racing and two Ed Carpenter Racing cars. All of their times in the fast 12 had been in the 233mph plus average range. Tony Kanaan on a very consistent run did a 233.022mph average putting him sixth. Indiana native Ed Carpenter went fifth with a 233.073mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.244.

Marcus Ericsson went fourth with a 233.166mph four lap average, Palou went third with a smooth run of 233.347mph and Dixon to nobody’s surprise went to the top with a 233.510mph four-lap average in what had been a very consistent run.

The fast six qualifying session was a battle between the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda’s of Dixon, Palou, Ericsson and Kanaan, and the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet’s of VeeKay and Carpenter.

Despite the cooling conditions, and the increase in cloud cover, both Ericsson and Kanaan would go slower on their fast six runs, only managing a 232.764mph and a 232.372mph four-lap average respectively, qualifying fifth and sixth although Ericsson did have a super smooth run, making him a car to watch out for in Sunday’s race.

Carpenter would be incredibly consistent compared with his fast 12 time by completing a four-lap average of 233.080mph, putting him fourth overall.

Ed Carpenter qualifying (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

The top three from the fast six would be VeeKay, Palou and Dixon. VeeKay was racing to be the youngest Indy 500 pole sitter in history but would have to settle with a third best average of 233.385mph. Palou went out and did a 233.499mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.048mph, only to get beaten by Dixon’s recording breaking 234.046mph four-lap average.

From left to right: Álex Palou, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Tony Kanaan and Marcus Ericsson (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Dixon, Palou and VeeKay will make up the front row for this weekend’s Indy 500, making it the fastest front row in Indy 500 history.

The next on track session for the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be on Friday for Carb Day and the Pit Stop Competition, ahead of Sunday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The full qualifying results are as follows.

Fast 12: 1st Scott Dixon (233.510), 2nd Rinus VeeKay (233.429), 3rd Álex Palou (233.347), 4th Marcus Ericsson (233.166), 5th Ed Carpenter (233.073), 6th Tony Kanaan (233.022), 7th Pato O’Ward (232.705), 8th Felix Rosenqvist (232.182), 9th Romain Grosjean (231.999), 10th Takuma Sato (231.670), 11th Will Power (231.534), 12th Jimmie Johnson.

Fast six: 1st Scott Dixon (234.046), 2nd Álex Palou (233.499), 3rd Rinus VeeKay (233.385), 4th Ed Carpenter (233.080), 5th Marcus Ericsson (232.764), 6th Tony Kanaan (232.372).

Featured Image: Scott Dixon celebrates capturing his fifth Indy 500 pole and breaking the record for the fastest pole speed in Indy 500 history (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Elliott outduels Chastain to win at Dover

Chase Elliott, after outdueling Ross Chastain, led the final 53 laps of the DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway on Monday to get his first NASCAR Cup win of the season and end his 26 winless streak. It had been 46 races since Elliott’s last oval win; that being at Phoenix in 2020 when he won his first Cup championship.

Chase Elliott, the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The final stage of the race had been led by Kyle Busch and Elliott’s Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman but an ill-timed caution with 77 laps to go when both were making their final green flag pit stops of the race, saw them both go a lap down and be forced to take the wave around under caution and start at the tail of the longest line. Bowman would bring the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet home in fifth with Kyle Busch finishing seventh.

2022 two-time winner Ross Chastain had assumed the lead of the race after the ill-timed caution but with 60 to go on a restart, he dueled side by side with Chase Elliott for three laps with neither giving an inch before another caution came out. The next restart saw Elliott power past Chastain on the inside and would lead from then on to take the checkered flag.

Talking to FOX’s Jamie Little, Elliott said they “had some good circumstances finally. We’ve had some tough races over the last four or five months” and also said it was great to get NAPA and Hendrick Motorsports back to victory lane.

Chase Elliott celebrates with pit crew/team (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Elliott joins the rest of his Hendrick teammates in being a 2022 Cup winner and comes out of Dover retaining the points lead in the regular season championship.

Elliott’s win has made history for Hendrick Motorsports by making them the first team to have four different drivers win a Cup race in the first 11 races of the season. Hendrick also had a one-two-three-four finish at Dover in the 2021 Cup race, which made it the fourth time in NASCAR history that the same organization swept the first four positions in a Cup race.

Chase Elliott (left) and crew crew chief Alan Gustafson (right) celebrate in victory lane with Miles the Monster trophy (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch led the most laps of the day, leading 133 of the 400 laps, but the ill-timed caution for a loose tyre out on the race track and loss of track position was too much for the birthday boy to overcome. It also ended Busch’s two for two streak of winning when a Cup race fell on his birthday.

Kyle Busch, the No. 18 M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota, racing in the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The race had originally got under way on Sunday afternoon, with pole sitter Chris Buescher leading the first 18 laps before being overtaken by Denny Hamlin. The caution came out on lap 68 for rain and ten laps later the red flag was brought out and the cars were parked on pit road. With the rain intensifying and Dover Motor Speedway not having any floodlights, NASCAR postponed the continuation of the race until Monday at noon.

The NASCAR Track Drying team (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

When they got going again after pit stops, Kyle Larson would take the lead of the race for a few laps before a caution would come out for a spinning Austin Cindric who lost the back end of his car coming out of turn two and would make contact with the outside wall. His day ultimately ended due to the team going over the six minute repair vehicle damage policy on pit road.

Elliott would take over the lead from Larson on the restart and would hold the lead until there were 10 laps to go in stage one when Hamlin would pass him on the inside and go on to win the stage.

Chase Elliott (front), the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin (behind), the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, battling for position (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Hamlin would lose the lead during the stage break as Hamlin’s team made a costly mistake on pit road of not getting the lug nut on Hamlin’s left front tyre resulting in Hamlin having a race off pit road with his own tyre rolling alongside him and was consequently penalized and sent to the back of the field for the restart.

Stage two saw a roller-coaster of events. Ross Chastain would lead the first part of stage two before Kyle Larson spun in turn four and ended up backwards on the front straightaway, also blowing a tyre in the process.  Over halfway through stage two, with Chastain still leading, Kurt Busch would get tagged from behind by AJ Allmendinger out of turn two that would send him spinning on the back straightaway, making minor contact with the inside wall.

Kurt Busch, the No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota, spinning after the contact with AJ Allmendinger (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Under caution, Justin Haley, who had been legitimately been running inside the top five earlier in the stage, would stay out. A lap after the restart, Joey Logano would bring out the next caution after getting shoulder barged out of the way by Erik Jones heading into turn one, and ending up colliding with the turn one outside wall.

A few laps after the next restart, 2021 winner Bowman would relinquish the lead from Haley. With less than 40 to go Kyle Busch would take over the lead but a caution later inside of 15 to go saw his Joe Gibbs teammate Hamlin getting collected on the front straightaway by a spinning Cody Ware in front of him. Ryan Blaney would stay out on tyres when the rest of the field pitted and with three laps to go, was able to hold off Kyle Busch for the stage two win.

Ryan Blaney, the No. 12 Menards/Jack Links Ford, racing in the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

In the final stage Kyle Busch would lead until the ill-timed caution sending him tumbling down the order. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would run inside the top five for the final stage and did so well as to bring home the No. 47 Frozen Farmer Chevrolet in second place, a huge day for JTG Daugherty Racing . He overtook Chastain for second place after Chastain had lost the lead to Elliott but was unable to get to Elliott, only closing the gap to 1.6 seconds within 30 to go after Elliott came upon lap traffic.

Kevin Harvick (front left), the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (front middle), the No. 47 Kroger/The Frozen Farmer Chevrolet, Christopher Bell (front right), the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota, Alex Bowman (back left), the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, and Justin Haley (back right), the No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, racing in the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

On the final lap, Ross Chastain find himself in trouble with Truex Jr., who he had been racing around for much of the race, when he came up to block him out of turn two. Truex Jr. made contact with Chastain’s rear before getting loose and spinning out, falling from fourth to 12th. On Chastain’s post-race interview with FOX’s Jamie Little, Chastain jokingly said “We were just talking about fishing there”.

Ross Chastain (left), the No. 1 Pitbull Tour 2022 Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr. (right), the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, racing side by side (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Full finishing order: (1st) Chase Elliott, (2nd) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., (3rd) Ross Chastain, (4th) Christopher Bell, (5th) Alex Bowman, (6th) Kyle Larson, (7th) Kyle Busch, (8th) Chris Buescher, (9th) Kevin Harvick, (10th) Erik Jones, (11th) Justin Haley, (12th) Martin Truex Jr., (13th) Chase Briscoe, (14th) Daniel Suárez, (15th) Cole Custer, (16th) Bubba Wallace, (17th) Michael McDowell, (18th) Corey Lajoie, (19th) Aric Almirola, (20th) Brad Keselowski, (21st) Denny Hamlin, (22nd) William Byron, (23rd) Austin Dillon, (24th) Harrison Burton, (25th) Ryan Preece, (26th) Ryan Blaney, (27th) Ty Dillon, (28th) Todd Gilliland, (29th) Joey Logano, (30th) Tyler Reddick, (31st) Kurt Busch, (32nd) Josh Bilicki, (33rd) AJ Allmendinger, (34th) Cody Ware, (35th) BJ McLeod, (36th) Austin Cindric.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Chase Elliott (418), 2nd Ryan Blaney (368), 3rd William Byron (353), 4th Kyle Busch (353), 5th Alex Bowman (349), 6th Ross Chastain (338), 7th Martin Truex Jr. (336), 8th Kyle Larson (335), 9th Joey Logano (316), 10th Christopher Bell (284).

Featured Image: (Right) Chase Elliott, the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet and (left) Ross Chastain, the No. 1 Pitbull Tour 2022 Chevrolet, dueling for the lead (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

VeeKay outperforms O’Ward to score second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus Veekay followed up topping practice two by bagging his second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park out doing Arrow McLaren SP, Ganassi, Penske and Andretti. VeeKay’s blistering final lap of a 1:06.2507 prevented Pato O’Ward from going back to back for pole position. O’Ward qualified second with a 1:06.4003 but said to NBC that a mistake in one corner cost him pole.

Pato O’Ward out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay speaking to NBC about his feelings towards tomorrow’s race said his “confidence is high”. The last time VeeKay put his ECR Chevrolet on pole, was at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020, a race track he won at in 2021 after managing to pass Romain Grosjean, scoring his first IndyCar Series win.

Rinus VeeKay heading into turn nine (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Álex Palou and Scott McLaughlin qualified third and fourth respectively, both of whom were consistently the fastest drivers out of their respective team camps heading into qualifying after two practice sessions.

From a smashed up Andretti Honda in practice only three hours before after overcorrecting and colliding with the turn 17 guard rail, Alexander Rossi made the Firestone fast six and qualified an impressive fifth place. Rossi’s car had been pushed hurriedly out of the paddock with him already in the car to even make qualifying. Felix Rosenqvist qualified sixth making McLaren SP the only team to have more than one car in the fast six on a day where Andretti and Ganassi were expected to make up the majority of the field in the session.

Alexander Rossi out on track (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

What contributed to the shuffling up of drivers who made up the fast 12 and the fast six, was a series of red flags that ended the earlier qualifying sessions with time to spare, cancelling out any hot laps drivers were currently on. In round one, group two rookie David Malukas brought out the red flag with less than a minute to go after getting loose coming over the hill into turn 15 and instead went off the track and collided with the outside guard rail.

Even more unfortunate was when Marcus Ericsson got beached in the turn nine gravel trap at the very end of the fast 12 session, ending many driver’s flying laps. Colton Herta who had been at the top of the board for much of the session until late on, instead had to settle for 10th place after having gone out for his final hot lap later than he expected it. Talking to NBC, Herta said “Ericsson ruined it for us”. Ericsson was 9th before being relegated to 12th in the session for bringing out the red flag.

Colton Herta standing by his pit box (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Newgarden and Grosjean faced the same fate, instead qualifying seventh and eighth. Grosjean was expected to be making a run for pole for tomorrow’s race and had been hitting the top of the board throughout qualifying, while it was anticipated that Newgarden, the three-time Barber winner, would make the top five.

British rookie Callum Ilott and Juncos Hollinger Racing would have a breakout day qualifying 11th. Ilott had also been on a quicker lap when the red flag came out but said to NBC that he was very happy to have qualified as well as they had.

Callum Ilott out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

A major upset in round one, group one saw Scott Dixon only manage seventh in the session and Will Power, the four-time Barber pole sitter who was fighting understeer in the car, only manage an 11th place. Dixon and Power will start 13th and 19th for tomorrow’s race.

Meyer Shank Racing had a challenging qualifying session. Hélio Castroneves while not making it out of round one, group two, finishing in eighth place, would also go for a spin coming out of turn nine after lighting up the rears on a flying lap at the end of the session, and ended up facing backwards on the inside grass patch. Teammate Simon Pagenaud only managed 12th in the session. Castroneves and Pagenaud will start 16th and 24th respectively.

The full qualifying order: Rinus VeeKay (1st), Pato O’Ward (2nd), Álex Palou (3rd), Scott McLaughlin (4th), Alexander Rossi (5th), Felix Rosenqvist (6th), Josef Newgarden (7th), Romain Grosjean (8th), Graham Rahal (9th), Colton Herta (10th), Callum Ilott (11th), Marcus Ericsson (12th), Scott Dixon (13th), Christian Lundgaard (14th), Jack Harvey (15th), Hélio Castroneves (16th), Takuma Sato (17th), David Malukas (18th), Will Power (19th), Devlin DeFrancesco (20th), Kyle Kirkwood (21st), Conor Daly (22nd), Dalton Kellett (23rd), Simon Pagenaud (24th), Tatiana Calderón (25th), and Jimmie Johnson (26th).

ECR’s Rinus Veekay and McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward will lead the field to green at 12:15 Central Time tomorrow for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. 

Featured Image: Rinus VeeKay celebrating with the NTT P1 Award (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media) 

Colton Herta smashes track record and claims pole at Long Beach

Hometown driver Colton Herta smashed the track record this afternoon, held by Hélio Castroneves, by nearly a second with a 1:05.3095 securing pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Long Beach. Herta is starting where he finished off last year’s event, where he won the 2021 Grand Prix of Long Beach and is now set to go back to back.

Herta had been flying for all of qualifying. The Andretti Autosport driver, born just 60 miles away from the track, topped the round one, group one session with a 1:05.73, and then replicated this in round two with a 1:05.41. Talking to NBC, Herta said “The car was so fast. Honda have been spectacular.”

Colton Herta racing around the fountain (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Herta’s teammates were also blisteringly fast. In both of Herta’s sessions, Alexander Rossi had finished second while Romain Grosjean had topped the round 1, group 2 session with a 1:05.75.

Alexander Rossi racing around the fountain (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Going into the Firestone Fast Six, it looked like it was Andretti Autosport’s destiny to lock out the top three positions for tomorrow’s race but while Grosjean was on a flying lap and on course to go quicker than Herta, he tagged the wall coming out of turn four, broke a suspension tow link, and with a loss in steering crashed the Honda into the turn five tyre wall, bringing out the red flag.

After the red flag was lifted with just two seconds of the session left, IndyCar followed the rulebook and allowed the drivers to complete one flying lap but Rossi did not go out again and would settle for fifth after Grosjean got demoted to sixth for having brought out the red flag. Talking to NBC regarding the incident, Grosjean said “Worst case scenario is sixth so just send it right?” Grosjean had been fastest in practice two earlier in the day.

Through all the chaos towards the end of the Firestone Fast Six, Josef Newgarden found himself having qualifying second. Álex Palou qualified third, and Felix Rosenqvist fourth. Palou won the IndyCar championship last year at Long Beach who hosted the final race of the season, after finishing fourth.

Josef Newgarden out qualifying (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Team Penske had been the challenger to Andretti Autosport over the race weekend, but it had appeared that championship leader Scott McLaughlin had the edge over teammate Newgarden, going third fastest in practice one and eigth fastest in practice two however he was affected by a build up of traffic at the turn 11 hairpin where drivers had been backing up the field somewhat throughout qualifying.

During the round two session, McLaughlin had let Marcus Ericsson past but Ericsson felt his lap was compromised and backed off before going side by side with McLaughlin around turn 10 heading to the hairpin compromising McLaughlin’s next flying lap. McLaughlin would qualify ninth.

Scott McLaughlin out qualifying (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

A similar incident occurred for Will Power where he felt he had also been impeded and missed out on the fast six and instead will have to start seventh for tomorrow’s race. It was even more painful for Pato O’Ward who was more than on course for making the fast six before going wide at the turn 11 hairpin and missed out by 0.005 of a second.

A big name of the weekend missing from the top six was Simon Pagenaud, who had been fastest in practice one and fifth in practice two. He had gone second fastest in round one, group two with a 1:05.89 but in round two, Pagenaud would only manage 10th.

Scott Dixon would only manage 16th while Kyle Kirkwood was the highest qualifying rookie in 12th and had been mixing it up in the top 10 during practice and qualifying.

The two round one group sessions some saw some close shaves as well as crashes. Jimmie Johnson, who was nursing a broken bone in his right hand from yesterday’s practice crash, crashed into the turn one tyre wall after missing the apex of the corner. The frustrated Californian yelled “Dammit, dammit, dammit!” on the radio. Before this, Johnson had been penalized for interference with Graham Rahal in turn one and would not advance to the next session.

Jimmie Johnson in the turn one tyre wall (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Rookie David Malukas would slide into the tyre wall opposite the fountain bringing out the red flag, but would continue and qualify 19th.

David Malukas sliding into the tyre wall opposite the fountain (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Conor Daly’s car was damaged after tagging the turn eight wall and would have to come down pit road.

Rosenqvist locked up over the bump heading into turn nine and had to take the escape road while Ericsson nearly flung his Huski Chocolate Honda into the turn five tyre wall while on his flying lap.

The green flag for the Grand Prix of Long Beach flies at 3pm ET on Sunday.

The full qualifying results are as follows: Colton Herta (1st), Josef Newgarden (2nd), Álex Palou (3rd), Felix Rosenqvist (4th), Alexander Rossi (5th), Romain Grosjean (6th), Will Power (7th), Marcus Ericsson (8th), Scott McLaughlin (9th), Simon Pagenaud (10th), Pato O’Ward (11th), Kyle Kirkwood (12th), Graham Rahal (13th), Hélio Castroneves (14th), Rinus VeeKay (15th), Scott Dixon (16th), Devlin DeFrancesco (17th), Conor Daly (18th), David Malukas (19th), Christian Lundgaard (20th), Jack Harvey (21st), Callum Ilott (22nd), Takuma Sato (23rd), Dalton Kellett (24th), Jimmie Johnson (25th), Tatiana Calderón (26th).

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

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