Rossi takes Mid-Ohio pole with scorching last-minute lap

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Alexander Rossi (USA): Verizon IndyCar Series, Mid-Ohio, Andretti Autosport
Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Alexander Rossi has taken pole position for tomorrow’s 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The Andretti Autosport driver ended what had been looking like a simple run to pole for Team Penske, with Alexander’s incredible final lap of the day being enough to earn him his third Verizon P1 award of the season.

In the first two stages of qualifying, it looked as though Penske were on to take their fifth consecutive pole position, which would have been their seventh pole of the year in total. Josef Newgarden looked to have stolen a march on the rest of the field, but in the final session, things changed.

As the drivers embarked on their final laps of the day, Ryan Hunter-Reay was the first man to dip into the 01:04’s, but he was quickly pipped by his Andretti team-mate, Alexander Rossi, who put in a stunning time of 01:04.6802; a lap-time within a second of the all-time lap record for the series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

When Newgarden came through to finish his final lap, he simply did not have the pace to challenge for pole. He could not break into the 01:04’s, setting a 01:05.1335 time. Instead, the best chance of a Penske pole position fell to Will Power. The Australian was looking good on his final run, but he fell short of taking P1 by just over two-tenths of a second.

With no one else able to challenge his time, Alexander Rossi would take home the Verizon P1 award for Mid-Ohio, taking his third pole position of the season and the fourth of his Verizon IndyCar Series career so far. The Californian driver is one of a handful of drivers still realistically in the championship hunt with five races remaining, so he will be hoping to capitalize on his fantastic qualifying effort to bring himself back toward the top of the standings.

Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay will line-up behind Rossi in second and third respectively, with the reigning series champion Newgarden a somewhat disappointing fourth on the grid after having looked so good in the earlier sessions.

Perhaps the most controversial moment of qualifying came right at the end of the second session. It was a crucial time, as many drivers had left it until the dying moments to set the laps that they would hope would put them into the pole position shoot-out.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports‘ James Hinchcliffe had just set a great time to put him at the top of the leaderboard, but he almost instantly lost control of his #5 Honda on entry into the carousel corner. He hit the barrier with the rear of his car and brought out a red flag as a result. This would not only see him lose his fastest time but with only a handful of seconds remaining, drivers who were not currently in the top six had no chance to improve.

Due to his team-mate’s lap being struck off for causing the red flag, SPM’s Robert Wickens was able to advance through to the final session, where he would qualify fifth. Perhaps the biggest shock of the day was Carlin‘s Max Chilton, who earned the British team’s best qualifying performance yet with a superb sixth place. He may have been helped by the red flag at the end of Q2, but he and the team will take every strong result they can get as they continue to learn the ropes in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Max Chilton (GBR): Verizon IndyCar Series, Carlin, Mid-Ohio, Qualifying

Credit: Matt Fraver / Courtesy of IndyCar

Hinchcliffe’s crash was a source of great frustration for the drivers who had been on their final laps at the time. The most anger came from seventh-placed Graham Rahal, who called on IndyCar officials to think of a better way to punish drivers for causing red flags in future races. His Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team-mate, Takuma Sato, would qualify just behind in eighth place.

It was a difficult day for the championship leader Scott Dixon. The New Zealander barely scraped through into the second session of qualifying after finishing sixth in his group. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver admitted that, after qualifying in ninth place, it would have been tough for him to get through to the final session with or without the red flag.

However, Scott is the most successful driver at Mid-Ohio with five previous victories at the circuit. He also won one of those races when starting down in twenty-second, so you may not want to bet against him extending his championship advantage even further in tomorrow’s race.

Dixon’s team-mate Ed Jones was also eliminated in the second session after setting the eleventh fastest time, much to the frustration of team owner Chip Ganassi, who slammed his headset down on the pit-wall in frustration before storming away. James Hinchcliffe will line-up in between the Chip Ganassi Racing duo after having his best lap taken away due to causing the red flag.

Zach Veach was the final driver to make it through to the second session of qualifying. He qualified in twelfth place, with team-mate Marco Andretti the first driver knocked out of the first round. Conor Daly put in another great performance in his second race with Harding Racing to take fourteenth on the grid.

Neither of Ed Carpenter Racing‘s drivers could find the speed to get out of the first session. Spencer Pigot had been looking strong throughout practice, but he ended up being out-qualified by his team-mate Jordan King. Jordan will line-up sixteenth for tomorrow’s race, with Pigot not far behind in eighteenth place.

There were two high-profile eliminations in the first round of qualifying. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud found himself unable to advance after qualifying down in seventeenth place. The Frenchman admitted after stepping from the #22 Chevrolet that he had no confidence in the rear of his car and was thus unable to push out on the track.

It was a similarly disappointing day for Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais, who nosed the wall early in qualifying to bring out a red flag. He crawled back to the pits with front-end damage and would then take no further part in qualifying. His team-mate, the returning Pietro Fittipaldi, will line-up two places further up the order in twenty-second place.

Alexander Rossi (USA): Verizon IndyCar Series, Mid-Ohio, Andretti Autosport

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Qualifying results:

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