Pagenaud leads Penske 1-2-3 in Iowa qualifying

3 Mins read
Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Simon Pagenaud has taken his second straight pole position in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series. The Frenchman leads his two Team Penske stablemates, who helped the team take a clean sweep in qualifying to take the first three positions on the grid for tomorrow night’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.

As is the case for the oval races of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, the qualifying format is slightly different than usual. Here, each driver had to complete two consecutive flying laps, with their average speed across both laps being used to determine their spot on the grid. What’s more, another complication was thrown into the mix, as the session was run during the heat of the day as opposed to the cooler race conditions that will be seen tomorrow night.

The drivers headed out onto the circuit one by one to complete their qualifying runs. The drivers went out in reverse championship order, with Carlin‘s Conor Daly going first and championship-leader Josef Newgarden going last. Due to track evolution, the fastest times of the session would come at the end, with the first few competitors having to deal with a track that was not as rubbered in as they would like. What’s more, an oil spill in earlier support race running for the ARCA Series meant that the early runners in IndyCar qualifying also had to deal with ‘speedy dry’ dust on the track in the final two turns.

After the first half of the field had made their runs, Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s Marcus Ericsson had the fastest run with a two-lap average of 175.578-mph. He would be beaten soon after by team-mate and defending Iowa Speedway race winner, James Hinchcliffe, who went to the top with a run of 176.200-mph.

As the session drew to a close and the top three in the championship waited to begin their runs, it was Penske’s Will Power who had the provisional pole with a run of 179.598-mph. His team-mate, Simon Pagenaud, would be the next to hit the track and would put on one hell of a display. The #22 Penske Chevrolet looked right on the limit for both laps, with the Frenchman crossing the line to go to the top of the time-sheets with a run of 180.073-mph.

Alexander Rossi was the penultimate driver to qualify. He had a tough two-lap run and would not be able to challenge Pagenaud for pole. This left Pagenaud’s team-mate and current championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, as the last driver to have a shot at taking pole from Simon. It was not meant to be for Josef, however, with the American’s run of 179.449-mph putting him in third place.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

This would mean that Simon Pagenaud would secure pole position for the 2019 Iowa 300. The result would be Simon’s third pole of the season and his second in succession after having started last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto from the front. Momentum is key in the NTT IndyCar Series. With Simon having won last weekend’s race from pole, he will look to do so again tomorrow night to continue to try and reel in Newgarden and Rossi in the championship standings.

Pagenaud’s pole is Penske’s fifth straight at Iowa Speedway, with the team continuing their damage on the short oval. What’s more, the team’s three drivers locked out the first three positions on the grid, with Power and Newgarden lining up behind Pagenaud in second and third respectively. Despite being a strong third, championship-leader Josef Newgarden was clearly disappointed to have missed out on pole position, with the American coming under increasing pressure as the championship enters its final handful of races.

The closest challenger to the Penske trio would be Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s, Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver qualified in fourth place, albeit almost 2-mph slower than third-placed Newgarden. Last year’s Iowa race winner, James Hinchcliffe, rounded out the top five in qualifying, with championship contender Alexander Rossi just behind in sixth place.

Graham Rahal qualified in seventh place, just ahead of former series champions Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay in eighth and ninth. After his strong run early on in the session, Marcus Ericsson will start in tenth place and will be the highest placed rookie when the green flag drops tomorrow night. His rookie rivals will also start in close proximity, however, with Colton Herta, Santino Ferrucci and Felix Rosenqvist qualifying in eleventh, twelfth and fifteenth respectively.

Despite being the first two drivers out in qualifying, it was a decent result for Carlin’s duo of Sage Karam and Conor Daly. Karam will line-up fourteenth tomorrow, with Daly just behind in sixteenth. With both drivers only having taken part in one prior race for the British team, both appear to be settling in well and will be hoping for a decent race tomorrow night. What’s more, the team will be happy to have out-qualified drivers from far more experienced outfits such as Andretti Autosport, Ed Carpenter Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises; all of whom struggled to get to grips with the tricky short track in qualifying and will be hoping to gain ground tomorrow.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Iowa 300 – Qualifying results:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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