Colton Herta continues strong form with pole position at Portland

by Jordan Groves

Colton Herta will start on pole position for the NTT IndyCar Series 2019 Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway. The Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie will start at the front of the field for the second time in his career in tomorrow’s race after beating Team Penske‘s Will Power to pole position by just two-hundredths of a second at the very last moment of the session.

Colton entered qualifying as the potential favourite for pole position after having been the fastest driver in Friday’s first practice and Saturday’s final practice. However, the teenager could not rest on his laurels, as the NTT IndyCar Series field is so evenly matched, with multiple threats throughout the field.

As qualifying progressed, it looked as though was the one to beat, but Penske’s Will Power was throwing everything he had at it to try and take yet another pole position. The pair took vastly different strategies once they made it into the pole position shoot-out, with Herta opting to run several laps on the primary tyre compound before making just one run on the theoretically faster alternate tyre compound right at the end of the session. Power, on the other hand, opted to just make two laps right at the end of the session on the alternate tyre.

Herta had the fastest-time after his banker lap set on the black tyres as the session entered its final moments. However, both Power and Scott Dixon would find speed on the red tyres to push the teenager down from the top spot. As the chequered flag came out, Power was on provisional pole position, but Herta would come through on his one and only lap on the red tyres to steal pole position for himself by just two-hundredths of a second.

The result means that Herta will start from pole position for just the second time in his NTT IndyCar Series career, his first pole having come back at Road America earlier this season. The rookie has endured a tough season so far and will be hoping to be in the mix for what would be his second victory in tomorrow’s race.

Will Power was visibly frustrated at having just missed out on pole position, with the Australian throwing his gloves down in anger after climbing from the #12 car. Nevertheless, Power will have a great starting position for tomorrow’s race and will be hoping to take his second win of 2019 tomorrow.

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

Less than a tenth of a second blanketed the top three at the end of the session. Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon put himself right in the mix at the end of qualifying and will start in third place. Most importantly, however, he will start well ahead of his fellow three championship contenders, which could be crucial as he needs as good of a day as possible tomorrow to try and keep himself in contention heading into the season finale.

It was a sensational return to the NTT IndyCar Series for Meyer Shank Racing and Jack Harvey. After missing the last two races at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park, Harvey and MSR showed no signs of rust and would qualify in a superb fourth-place, ahead of a whole host of full-time IndyCar teams and drivers. He will be hoping for a strong finish tomorrow as rumours continue to circulate regarding his and the team’s potential 2020 plans.

Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top six that made it through to the final session of qualifying. Rosenqvist will look to maintain his track position over his main rival for the rookie of the year honours, Santino Ferrucci, with the American qualifying way down in fourteenth place. Just two points separate the pair in the rookie standings heading into tomorrow’s penultimate race of the season.

The aforementioned Scott Dixon was the only one of the four championship contenders to advance into the final round of qualifying. Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi was so close to joining him, but Alexander would be eliminated and will start in seventh place after being bumped out of the top six by Rosenqvist. Nevertheless, Rossi will take solace in the fact that he starts well clear of his other two title rivals who failed to make it out of the first round. Alexander had one of the fastest cars in the field in last year’s race at Portland, but he was caught out by ill-timed caution periods. He will be hoping to seal the deal and return to the top step of the podium tomorrow.

It was a strong qualifying effort for both Arrow Schmidt Peterson drivers. James Hinchcliffe will start in eighth-place on the grid, but the arguably more impressive performance came from his new team-mate for this weekend. Conor Daly received a late call-up to race the #7 Honda this weekend after Marcus Ericsson was called for Spa-Francorchamps for reserve driver duties with the Alfa Romeo Racing Formula 1 team. Despite jumping into a new team with a new car having not raced on a road course in over a year, Daly qualified right behind Hinchcliffe to take ninth place, with just two-hundredths of a second separating the pair.

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot will line-up in tenth place tomorrow, with Zach Veach and Sebastien Bourdais completing the top twelve that made it out of the first round of qualifying.

Both groups in the first round of qualifying saw major scalps fail to advance into the next round. The current top-two in the championship, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, were both eliminated. Newgarden will start in thirteenth place after being knocked out of the top twelve by just one-hundredth of a second. Pagenaud, meanwhile, will start even deeper in the field down in eighteenth place. A poor finish for either driver tomorrow could open the door for Rossi and Dixon to put themselves firmly in the mix for the title at the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in a few weeks time.

It was also a difficult session for our defending race winner at Portland and our most recent winner in the NTT IndyCar Series. Takuma Sato will start tomorrow’s race in seventeenth place and will be hoping for more well-timed cautions tomorrow to help get himself back into the mix at the end of the race.

The on-track action in qualifying took place with heavy hearts throughout the field. The teams and drivers were shocked, as were many across the globe, by the news out of Spa-Francorchamps that Frenchman, Anthoine Hubert, had been tragically killed in a horrific crash in the Formula 2 feature race earlier in the day.

After IndyCar’s final practice session before qualifying, Sebastien Bourdais organised a moment of silence to pay tribute to Anthoine, with all of the drivers and team members lining up on pit-road to pay their respects to their fallen comrade. There is no doubt that Anthoine will be on the minds of each of the twenty-three IndyCar drivers as they prepare to race tomorrow for the penultimate time this year.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Qualifying results:

188Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing57.8111
212Will PowerAUSTeam Penske57.8303
39Scott DixonNZL Chip Ganassi Racing57.8355
460Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing58.1008
510Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing58.1620
628Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport58.1823
--Eliminated in Q2---
727Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport57.8864
85James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson57.9994
97Conor DalyUSAArrow Schmidt Peterson58.0192
1021Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing58.0415
1126Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport58.2149
1218Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan58.3001
--Eliminated in Q1---
132Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske57.9585
1419Santino Ferrucci (R)USADale Coyne Racing57.8476
1515Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing57.9648
1698Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta57.8527
1730Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing57.9668
1822Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske57.9479
1914Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises58.1030
2059Max ChiltonGBRCarlin57.9866
214Matheus LeistBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises58.1558
2223Charlie KimballUSACarlin58.0582
2320Ed JonesUAEEd Carpenter Racing58.2165

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