Felix Rosenqvist has taken his first-ever NTT IndyCar Series pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The Swedish rookie helped take Chip Ganassi Racing to a front-row lock-out, with veteran team-mate and reigning champion Scott Dixon lining up alongside him in second place.
Heading into qualifying, nobody really knew how the grid could look. Cold temperatures made getting heat in the Firestone tyres a real challenge for all. Such were the difficulties out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, many ‘big names’ fell by the wayside as the session progressed, leading to a mixed-up grid for the race tomorrow.
As the pole-position shoot-out began, it looked as though Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta had the best chance to take the top spot; having just set the fastest time of the weekend in the second session with a stunning 1:07.887.
However, as the session drew to a close, the drivers were struggling to replicate the speeds from the prior session. As the checkered flag flew, it was Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey who was holding onto provisional pole position, with a few drivers left to complete their laps. Only a handful of drivers were able to find speed, with Rosenqvist crossing the line to take the top spot away from Harvey by less than a tenth of a second.
Scott Dixon put in a late-lap to try and take it to his team-mate, but he could only manage second place; missing out by just two-hundredths of a second.
Nobody else was able to hold a candle to the Ganassi duo as the final drivers came across the line, thus putting Rosenqvist on pole position for the first time in his IndyCar career. It was a great result for Felix and it could bode well for the race, as the pole-sitting driver has gone on to win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for the last four years.
Dixon will be hoping to break that trend in tomorrow’s race. The reigning champion will be trying to take his first victory of the year, a victory that would put himself much closer to the lead in the championship fight.
All of the headlines will be on IndyCar’s latest pole-sitter, as you might expect. However, an equally impressive performance came from Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing. It was the first time that the British driver and MSR made it into the final session of qualifying. What’s more, they would take third-place on the grid; an astonishing effort for what is still a very new team on the grid.
Colton Herta was not able to replicate his astonishing lap from the second session of qualifying. He would wind-up taking fourth on the grid; which is nevertheless a strong starting spot for tomorrow’s race. With the pace of his #88 Harding Chevrolet, Colton could easily be in contention for his second IndyCar win tomorrow.
Another driver who made his first appearance in the pole position shoot-out was Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa‘s, Ed Jones. The Dubai-born British driver was yet another shock transfer through to the final session, outqualifying his team-mate Spencer Pigot who seemed to be the much stronger driver heading into the session.
Heading into the event, the driver who many considered the one to beat was Team Penske‘s Will Power. Penske’s pace looked shaky at the start of qualifying, but Power was able to advance all the way to the final session regardless. However, he could do no better than sixth place; putting an end to his and the team’s run of consecutive pole positions for Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Just missing out on a spot in the final round of qualifying was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s, Graham Rahal. He would take seventh place, with Simon Pagenaud putting an end to his recent run of bad qualifying results to take eighth on the grid.
Similarly, Marcus Ericsson would advance out of the first round of qualifying for the first time in his brief IndyCar career. He would also outqualify his veteran team-mate, James Hinchcliffe. Marcus will line-up in ninth place tomorrow, just ahead Sebastien Bourdais in tenth place. Takuma Sato and Spencer Pigot would round out the top twelve that made it to the second session, with Pigot most likely disappointed not to have made it into the final round after his strong pace in practice earlier in the day.
Perhaps as surprising as the line-up in the final session was the names of some of the drivers who failed to advance out of round one. Championship leader Josef Newgarden was eliminated in the first round and will start way down in thirteenth place. He will be hoping to replicate his performance back at Barber Motorsports Park, where he climbed from outside of the top ten to take a top-five finish.
The returning Helio Castroneves will line-up tomorrow in fifteenth place. Given his lack of pace during the two practice sessions prior to qualifying, the Brazilian veteran may not be too disappointed with the result.
Another big shock of the session was that none of the four Andretti Autosport drivers advanced out of the opening round. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will line-up in sixteenth and seventeenth respectively, with the remaining duo of Zach Veach and Marco Andretti further back in twentieth and twenty-third.
Other high-profile eliminations in the first round included James Hinchcliffe for Arrow Schmidt Peterson, who will start in eighteenth place. It was a difficult session for the Canadian, who was out-qualified quite substantially by his rookie team-mate Ericsson.
Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward may also have been hoping for better. The Mexican will start down in nineteenth place, but he will at least take solace after his out-qualified team-mate Max Chilton, who will start in twenty-second.
Completing the grid for tomorrow’s race will be A.J. Foyt Enterprises’, Tony Kanaan. The Brazilian veteran has had a torrid time at Indianapolis so far, but the only way is up tomorrow. He’ll be hoping to make some gains to try and salvage a decent result out of a tough race weekend.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Indianapolis – Qualifying results:
[table id=3836 /]