Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: Jared DePouw
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Saturday, July 28, 2018) – The saying goes that it only takes one good lap in qualifying. For Alexander Rossi, it only took one lap – period – to take the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Rossi turned just one timed lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifying rounds, but it was enough to earn the first starting position. He was clocked at 1 minute, 4.6802 seconds (125.677 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda to pick up his third pole position this season and fourth of his three-year INDYCAR career.
By design, Rossi waited until less than two minutes remained in the Firestone Fast Six before going on track at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He knew that his red-sidewall Firestone alternate tires were at their best for him on the first full lap around the 2.258-mile permanent road course.
“For whatever reason, we had a one-lap car on reds, so that was a unique thing that’s happened for us this year,” Rossi said. “We used it to our advantage. That’s the reason we sat there (until late in the Firestone Fast Six). We knew that was where our car was going to be best – one lap, going out.”
The Andretti Autosport driver will lead the 24-car field to the green flag in Sunday’s 90-lap race (live at 3 p.m. ET, CNBC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network; same-day encore telecast at 6:30 p.m., NBCSN).
“This one was really special to me,” Rossi said. “Honestly, I think road courses have not been my strongest kind of attribute in the rise in the (Verizon) IndyCar Series, for whatever reason. It’s something that has been our biggest focus really from the middle of last year.
“To be able to do that here on arguably the hardest road course we go to is a huge thing, and one that there’s a big wave of happiness and relief that kind of washed over me when I was told we got pole.”
Will Power qualified second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, with a lap of 1:04.8939 (125.263 mph). It marks the eighth time this season that the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner will start from the front row.
“Yeah, happy with front row,” Power said. “Obviously, it’s a real track position track. It’s difficult to pass and everyone is fast these days, so qualifying means a lot. Alex just pumped out one really good lap there (to win the pole).
“I thought my lap was really good and then I came in and saw what he did, and that was a solid lap.”
Row 2 on the Mid-Ohio grid mirrors the front row by team. Rossi’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, Ryan Hunter-Reay, qualified third in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:04.9896, 125.078 mph). Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and defending Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden, Power’s teammate, qualified fourth in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:05.1335, 124.802 mph).
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens qualified fifth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (1:05.1747, 124.723 mph). Max Chilton equaled his career-best start by qualifying sixth in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet (1:06.6172, 122.023 mph).
Several contenders had qualifying efforts derailed by incidents during the first two rounds. Sebastien Bourdais, the 2014 Mid-Ohio pole sitter, slid into the Turn 2 tire barrier in the first round and will start last in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda. James Hinchcliffe had just set the fastest lap of Round 2 when he went off track and into the tires in Turn 12. Penalized his two fastest laps in the round, Hinchcliffe will start 10th in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda.
Championship leader Scott Dixon was on track when the Hinchcliffe incident brought out the red flag, halting his hot lap. Dixon, a five-time winner at Mid-Ohio, will start ninth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and takes a 62-point lead over Newgarden into the race.
“I think it would’ve been tight for us without the red flag to get through (to the Firestone Fast Six), but you never really know. The PNC Bank car was good, and we had definitely made gains from Q1 to Q2 there.”
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is the 13th of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.