Championship leader Newgarden makes statement with Gateway pole position

by Jordan Groves

2019 NTT IndyCar Series points leader, Josef Newgarden, has taken pole position for tomorrow night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. The Team Penske driver was last to take his lap but put in a scintillating two-lap average of 186.508-mph to take pole position, much to the dismay of his championship rivals.

The twenty-two drivers this weekend had two laps to stake their claim for pole position for the final oval race of the 2019 season. As always, the track conditions would improve as the session went on, with the field heading out one-by-one in the order of the championship standings reversed.

Andretti Autosport‘s Zach Veach was the early leader with his run of 182.547-mph, but he would soon fall back when Colton Herta would hit the top with a two-lap average of 183.399-mph. Herta would soon be displaced by the fastest man from practice earlier on in the day when fellow rookie Santino Ferrucci would hit the top with an impressive run of 184.830-mph.

Sadly for Santino, his hopes of claiming his first NTT IndyCar Series pole position would be dashed by his team-mate, Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman, who it’s fair to say has had a tough 2019 season so far, lit up the short oval at Gateway with a stunning average lap speed of 185.927-mph. With the next few drivers -including one of the best qualifiers in IndyCar history, Will Power – unable to beat Sebastien’s time, it looked as though the Frenchman was on to take his first pole position since last year’s race at ISM Raceway.

The four championship contenders were the last to hit the race track for qualifying. Neither Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud nor Alexander Rossi looked as though they could threaten Bourdais’ pole run. All three would fall by the wayside, with just Josef Newgarden remaining to try and steal away pole position.

With Newgarden having extended his championship lead to thirty-five points last time out at Pocono Raceway, the hope of his championship rivals was that they could start reeling him back in with just three races to go. However, based on Newgarden’s qualifying lap. He has other ideas. Josef would storm to the top of the time-sheets with an unbelievable average speed of 186.508-mph to take pole position away from Sebastien Bourdais, thus securing himself an extra point in the standings and, more importantly, a prime spot on the grid to try and take the win in tomorrow night’s race.

Newgarden’s run would ultimately be two-tenths of a second faster than the previous provisional pole-sitter, Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman was disappointed to have just missed out on pole position, but will undoubtedly be delighted to be featuring back at the sharp end of the grid after a tough season that has left him down in tenth place in the standings.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

With Newgarden on pole position, Penske once again had shown their qualifying pace that they have become somewhat synonymous for other the last few seasons in particular. Josef’s pole position was backed up by his team-mates, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, securing third and fourth on the grid; with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato coming within thousandths of a second of Pagenaud’s time to take fifth-place on the grid. Takuma will be hoping to defy his critics after last weekend’s Pocono pile-up to try and be in contention for his second win of the season.

After his great lap earlier on in the session, Santino Ferrucci secured his best qualifying position in the NTT IndyCar Series yet. He will start as the highest-placed rookie in sixth place and, given his prior form in the oval races so far this season, he could very well be a dark horse for the victory tomorrow night.

James Hinchcliffe put in a solid effort to secure seventh place on the grid, a great upturn in form after having finished first practice well off of the pace in last place. Fellow veterans, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will line-up behind him in eighth and ninth places respectively, with rookie Felix Rosenqvist putting his previous oval difficulties aside to round out the top ten.

It was a somewhat disastrous session for Andretti’s Alexander Rossi. Not only did he have to watch as the championship-leader went out and took pole position, but he also found himself well down the order in eleventh place; right in the danger zone of the mid-field for a race that he needs to score well at to put himself firmly back in the hunt. He will be hoping to use his overtaking talents tomorrow to move forward and try to catch Newgarden.

Further back, Carlin‘s Conor Daly was frustrated heading into his qualifying lap as he was the first man to make a run. Not only did he have the worst track conditions of the session to deal with, he also had to cope with the track being covered in ‘speedy-dry’ after an oil spill in an earlier support session; as was the case for him in qualifying back at Iowa Speedway. Despite all of this, Daly still managed to qualify his #59 Chevrolet in eighteenth place, just ahead of team-mate Charlie Kimball in the #23 car.

It was another disappointing qualifying session for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. After having much better pace last weekend at Pocono, it was a crash down to earth for the team. Tony Kanaan‘s run was two seconds slower than the pole-sitter and will see him start down in twentieth place, with team-mate Matheus Leist just behind him in twenty first.

Twenty-second and last place went the way of Marco Andretti, who had a moment a turn one on his first lap that forced him to get out of the racing line and out of the throttle. His two-lap average speed was 10-mph slower than the pole-sitter, Josef Newgarden.

The teams and drivers now have a final practice session to fine-tune their race setups ahead of tomorrow. The 2019 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will take place under the floodlights, tomorrow night, Saturday, August 24.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – Qualifying results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMSPEED (MPH)
12Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske186.508
218Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan185.927
312Will PowerAUSTeam Penske185.896
422Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske185.143
530Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing185.050
619Santino Ferrucci (R)USADale Coyne Racing184.830
75James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson184.452
89Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing184.293
928Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport184.206
1010Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing184.130
1127Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport184.070
1288Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing183.399
1321Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing183.211
147Marcus Ericsson (R)SWEArrow Schmidt Peterson183.180
1526Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport182.547
1615Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing182.065
1720Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing181.334
1859Conor DalyUSACarlin179.399
1923Charlie KimballUSACarlin178.982
2014Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises178.974
214Matheus LeistBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises178.290
2298Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta175.192

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