Will Power will start on pole position for the 2019 IndyCar Classic, the first NTT IndyCar Series race held at the Circuit of the Americas. The result is Power’s second straight pole position, having started at the front for the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The win also means that Power will have a shot at earning a $100,000 bonus if he wins the race tomorrow.
In a stark contrast from the three practice sessions, the drivers ventured out onto the Circuit of the Americas with cloudy and threatening skies overhead. Temperatures were much cooler compared to prior sessions, providing a sense of unpredictability amongst some as to how the session might pan out.
Unlike in Formula 1 races at COTA, track limit breaches are not penalised. This was highlighted, in particular, and the penultimate corner of the race-track. Drivers would frequently push to the absolute limit and fly over the run-off area to carry as much speed as possible. This was made tricky by the various bumps in the run-off area.
The risk versus the return was deemed to be worth it for many drivers, but two drivers would cause red flags in the early sessions of qualifying. In group one of the first round, Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey would spin into the gravel at the penultimate turn and bring out a red flag. This prevented a number of drivers, such as James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais from setting a representative lap-time. This saw them eliminated from qualifying in the first round.
In the second group, the same problem struck again. This time, it was Tony Kanaan who would lose control and find himself beached in the gravel. He had just set a lap time that would have seen him advancing into the next round, but he would have that lap-time taken away by the stewards as a punishment for causing the red flag.
Also punished due to the red flag was Simon Pagenaud and Marcus Ericsson; who both had a chance to get into the next round until their laps were interrupted by the stranded Kanaan.
Thankfully, the remaining sessions of qualifying would go uninterrupted; but the drivers were pushing just as hard. This was evidenced by Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist. The Swedish rookie put in an astonishingly fast 1:45.4542; the fastest lap of the weekend and the fastest lap set by an IndyCar at COTA so far. The lap-time put him four tenths ahead of Alexander Rossi heading into the pole position shoot-out.
Sadly for Felix, he couldn’t seem to quite get his laps hooked up in the final round as he had done in round two. Rosenqvist went for two back-to-back flying laps for his pole run, but his Firestone tyres seemed to start to lose grip toward the end of his second lap. His lap-time was a comparatively slow 1:46.5 – meaning that he would almost certainly not be taking pole position.
The battle for the front of the grid instead went down to Andretti Autosport versus Team Penske. When the chequered flag flew to end the session, it was Alexander Rossi who was at the top and hoping to stay there. Sadly, however, Will Power had other ideas. On his final lap of the session, Power would come around to set a 1:46.0177; a lap-time that was just under two tenths faster than Rossi’s best.
As a result, Will Power would claim his fifty-sixth IndyCar pole position and his second in a row. The Australian has so far continued to showcase his astounding one-lap speed so far in 2019, having taken pole position for both races so far. Additionally, Power will now have a chance at taking home a $100,000 bonus if he is able to win tomorrow’s race.
Rossi was disappointed to have missed out on pole position, but he will still have every chance at finish tomorrow’s race on the top step of the podium. He will start on the front row, with team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay just behind in third place.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta secured his and the team’s best qualifying result in IndyCar to date. The American teenager qualified in fourth place. Heading into the weekend, Colton was fancied by many as a potential dark horse for the victory after his strong run during pre-season testing in February.
However, Colton’s #88 Honda has been plagued by mechanical issues throughout the weekend so far. He will be hoping that he does not suffer a repeat of the problems in tomorrow’s race; as he bids to become the youngest-ever IndyCar race-winner.
Starting in fifth place will be Felix Rosenqvist, who for the second race in a row managed to outqualify his reigning champion Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate, Scott Dixon. The New Zealander will start right behind in sixth place.
Just missing out on a spot in the final round of qualifying was the championship leader and defending race winner, Josef Newgarden. The #2 Penske driver was a matter of hundredths off of advancing into the pole position shoot-out.
The returning Patricio O’Ward put on a great show en-route to qualifying in eighth place. This weekend is the Mexican’s second IndyCar race and his first racing for Carlin. He out-qualified his team-mate, Max Chilton, who will start back in thirteenth after failing to advance out of the first round.
Zach Veach put aside his difficulties getting to grips with the Texan circuit to qualify in ninth place, just ahead of Graham Rahal in tenth place. Rookie Santino Ferrucci and A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Matheus Leist rounded out the top twelve that made it out of the opening round of qualifying.
A number of ‘big names’ will start further down the field after being compromised by the red flags in the first race. Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson and Sebastien Bourdais will start in positions fourteen through seventeen. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was delt and even worse fate, with the Frenchman qualifying way down in twenty-second place. A number of these drivers were also eliminated in the first round back at St. Petersburg; thus making today’s result an even harder pill to swallow.
Starting on the final row of the grid tomorrow will be the two drivers that caused the early red flags. British driver Jack Harvey will start in twenty-third, with Tony Kanaan lining-up in twenty-fourth and last place.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – IndyCar Classic – Qualifying results:
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