Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo
INDIANAPOLIS – Rookie Felix Rosenqvist won his first pole in the NTT IndyCar Series on Friday by outpacing Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 27-year-old Swede posted a lap of 1 minute, 8.2785 seconds (128.597 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Dixon, a five-time series champion, ran 1:08.2979 (128.560) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda.
Team Penske has dominated this event over the years, winning the past four races from the pole. But Will Power, who captured the past two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, was the lone Penske driver to reach this Firestone Fast Six. The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner will start the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet in sixth position on Saturday. Teammate Simon Pagenaud, the only other winner of the INDYCAR Grand Prix in the event’s history, starts eighth in the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet.
Rosenqvist wasn’t sure he would be the pole winner until Dixon completed his final lap.
“The first two laps I didn’t really feel like I had (tire) grip, and then the final lap there was something switching on, and I was like, ‘OK, this could be good,” Rosenqvist said. “But honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be (fast enough). It’s so tight. I looked up at the screen and we were P1. I just prayed it was going to hold ’til the end.”
Rosenqvist wasn’t the only driver celebrating. Jack Harvey, who earned the third starting position, participated in his first Firestone Fast Six in Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda. Harvey has only 13 career starts in the NTT IndyCar Series, but has had success at IMS. He won the Freedom 100, the Indy Lights race on the superspeedway oval, and an Indy Lights race on the road course in 2015.
Rookie Colton Herta, who drives the No. 88 GESS International Honda for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, had been the fastest driver in Friday’s second practice and actually posted the fastest lap in qualifying at 1:07.8887 (Round 2). The second-generation Indy car driver’s Firestone Fast Six performance was good for a fourth-place starting position, tying his best qualifying session of the season at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, which he went on to win. In 2018, Herta swept all three Indy Lights races at IMS – two on the road course, one on the oval.
Ed Jones, driver of the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Scuderia Corsa, will start fifth in Saturday’s race, easily his best of the season (his previous best this year was 15th in St. Petersburg, Florida, in March).
Dixon has never won an INDYCAR Grand Prix, but he has had strong races. He finished second last year after starting 18th.
The first round of qualifying was interesting as three drivers – series points leader Josef Newgarden, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2018 championship runner-up Alexander Rossi – failed to advance out of the first group. Team Penske drivers Newgarden, Castroneves and Power took turns bumping each other out of the transfer line in the closing seconds of the session.
Newgarden was surprised to be nearly six-tenths of a second off the session’s best lap, which means the driver of the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevrolet will have work to do starting 13th on Saturday.
“That’s a big deal,” he said of the time discrepancy. “I’m not sure where that (improvement) is at.”
Changing weather conditions open up the possibility of a wet race. In that case, the action could be especially thrilling as teams manage the conditions and drivers put their skills to the test in the rain.
“If it rains, it rains, (and) it’s the same for everybody,” Pagenaud said.
Coverage of the 85-lap INDYCAR Grand Prix, the fifth race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, begins at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC, NBCsports.com, the NBC Sports app and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.