Colton Herta has become the youngest pole position winner in the history of the NTT IndyCar Series after a sensational effort in qualifying for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. Herta engaged in a session-long duel with Alexander Rossi to take the pole, with no other driver really looking to be a factor in the contest for the best starting position for tomorrow’s race.
Throughout the opening sessions of qualifying leading up to the pole position shoot-out, it looked as though we were in for a close battle between Herta and Rossi. The pair were in separate groups in the first round of qualifying, with both drivers topping their respective sessions with remarkable similar lap-times. The pair were the only drivers in the field to lap in the 1:42 range, with their initial lap-times separated by a mere five-thousandths of a second.
The pair remained as the leaders of the proceedings in the second session of qualifying, easily transferring through to the final round in the 1:42’s once again. This time, Team Penske‘s Will Power was also able to get into the 1:42’s but only just and still with a significant gap to the pace-setters.
For the shorter final session of qualifying to decide pole position, Rossi and Herta took different approaches on their laps. Rossi went for perhaps the standard approach of making one early run before coming into the pits and venturing out for a final run at the end of the session. Herta, on the other hand, was able to make just one run at the end of the session, but he would complete two consecutive flying laps. This was made possible by his decision to make just a single lap on his tyres in the previous session.
Rossi’s early lap was fast enough to see him go to the top spot once again, this time in the low 1:43’s due to the tyres nearing the end of their best performance. Herta’s first lap of his two consecutive flyers was not quite enough to usurp Rossi from the top spot, but his tyres looked much better on the second lap now that they were well and truly up to temperature.
Herta was able to use the pace of his tyres to carry him through the lap, with the tyres thankfully holding onto their last bit of life as the lap drew to a close. He would cross the line to beat Rossi’s time by three-tenths of a second. He would take provisional pole position, once again in the 1:42’s with a lap of 1:42.9920.
Herta could not celebrate just yet, however, as Rossi was behind him on the race track on his final run to try and steal back pole position. His final lap allowed him to improve on his best lap, but it would not be enough to take pole position. He would cross the line to go two-tenths of a second slower than Herta.
As was the case throughout qualifying, no one else was able to get on terms with Herta or Rossi. Therefore, Herta had claimed his first-ever pole position in the NTT IndyCar Series; making him the youngest driver to have ever done so at the age of nineteen. This follows up his sensational win earlier in the year at the Circuit of the Americas, where Herta became the youngest ever race winner in IndyCar’s history.
After a thrilling duel with Herta throughout qualifying, Alexander Rossi would, yet again, have to settle for second-place. He has finished three of the last four races in the runner-up position and will be determined to take the fight to Herta tomorrow to ensure that he can finally stand on the top step of the podium again.
Two Penske team-mates will share the second-row of the grid in tomorrow’s race. Will Power edged out championship-leader Josef Newgarden to take third-place. Power ended up only two-tenths of a second slower than Rossi, but despite closing up in the final session, he was unable to throw his hat into the ring of the fight for pole.
Both Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing drivers made it into the final session, with Graham Rahal beating team-mate Takuma Sato to take fifth place on the grid. Rahal has often started races deep in the field and come through to take a decent finish. He will be hoping that he can use a strong grid position tomorrow to try and fight his way onto the podium.
In a frantic final few moments of the penultimate round, a number of drivers jumped into the top six only to be eliminated right as the last moment. Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais was agonisingly close to advancing into the final session but will start in seventh place. Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot was just one-hundredth of a second slower in eighth place, with James Hinchcliffe just behind in ninth. Marco Andretti built upon a decent trio of practice sessions to take a reasonable tenth place on the grid; a much better showing than the American has had in recent races.
Ed Jones will start in eleventh place and was the final driver to make a run in the second session of qualifying. The final member of the top twelve who was supposed to run was Chip Ganassi Racing‘s, Scott Dixon. The reigning champion put in a good enough lap to get into the top twelve in the first round of qualifying, but shortly after completing his lap his Honda engine appeared to fail. As a result, he would take no further part in qualifying and will start deep in the midfield in twelfth place and will have work to do tomorrow.
Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward will start in thirteenth place as the highest-placed driver to be eliminated in the first round of qualifying. Andretti’s Zach Veach will line-up just behind in fourteenth, with his team-mate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, perhaps being the shock eliminated in the opening round after only managing to qualify fifteenth. The American had shown great pace throughout the practice sessions leading up to qualifying, but the pace seemed to escape him when it counted.
It was a similarly disappointing performance by Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. The Indianapolis 500 winner will start in sixteenth place after making numerous errors on his fastest lap in the first round. The Frenchman attempted to make a second consecutive lap work, but ultimately to no avail.
Seventeenth and eighteenth on the grid went to the Sweedish rookies Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist. Fellow rookie Santino Ferrucci – currently the highest-placed rookie in the championship standings – will start further back in twenty-first place after his Honda engine appeared to fail on the start/finish straight. He will hope to charge through the order to try and get as high as possible in tomorrow’s race.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – REV Group Grand Prix – Qualifying results:
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