Reigning champion Newgarden takes pole position at Texas

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Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion and defending Texas Motor Speedway race winner, Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden, has claimed pole position for tonight’s season-opening race; the 2020 Genesys 300. The American put in a superb two-lap qualifying run, clocking in an average speed of 215.740-mph.

Just two short hours after the one and only practice session for tonight’s race, single-car qualifying got underway. The drivers would have an out-lap and a warm-up lap followed by two timed laps. The average speed of those two laps would determine the drivers’ qualifying speed.

After the early runs, Andretti Autosport‘s Zach Veach was on provisional pole, backing up his decent practice speeds to set a two-lap average of 213.981-mph. One of the most impressive runs, however, was yet to come. After being one of three drivers to crash in practice earlier in the day, Ryan Hunter-Reay would return to the track in his repaired #28 Andretti Honda to set a two-lap average of 214.311-mph; a superb run considering that when he had last been behind the wheel of his car, he had hit the wall on the exit of turn two.

Several more drivers would complete their laps until Hunter-Reay’s time would be beaten. The qualifying draw meant that the ‘heavy hitters’ would be running right at the end of the session. Scott Dixon, the fastest man in practice earlier in the day, would be the first of the final three drivers to make a run. He would soon put in a fantastic effort, moving to the top of the time-sheets with a 215.638-mph average.

The penultimate driver to run would be Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, last year’s Indianapolis 500 victor. Pagenaud would manage to get into the 215-mph range, but he wouldn’t quite be quick enough to usurp Dixon. Pagenaud would end with a qualifying speed of 215.464, with just his team-mate, reigning champion Josef Newgarden, left to try and topple Dixon.

Newgarden hadn’t been too fast in practice earlier on in the day, with Penske choosing to split their three drivers on setup to try and cover as many bases as possible. Now, however, Newgarden’s #1 Chevrolet was dialled in. Josef would put in a blistering run to steal pole position away from Scott, with Newgarden setting a two-lap average of 215.740-mph to take the top spot on the time-sheets.

Josef will be hoping to translate his grid position into a strong finish later tonight in the race. As the defending champion and defending race winner in Texas, anything other than a victory will likely be a disappointment. Scott Dixon will line-up alongside him on the front row of the grid, with the New Zealander hoping to begin 2020 in the best way that he can after a somewhat disappointing 2019 season.

The second row of the grid will be shared by third-placed Simon Pagenaud and fourth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay; with Ryan hoping that his bad luck is now behind him following his crash in practice. Zach Veach put in a strong effort to secure fifth-place on the grid, just ahead of Penske’s third and final entrant, Will Power. The Australian may be a little frustrated to have been over a mile an hour off of the pace of his two-team-mates given his usual prowess in qualifying.

Graham Rahal will start tonight’s race from seventh on the grid. His Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team will have their work cut out for them between qualifying and the green flag, however, after Rahal’s team-mate, Takuma Sato, crashed heavily on his warm-up lap.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Sato was running his #30 Honda a little too high on the entry into turns one and two and was, therefore, running on the traction compound laid down by the NASCAR Cup series last November. As we saw in practice, this traction compound now has almost zero grip. Sato’s car spun around quickly, with the Japanese driver hitting the outside wall nose-first. Thankfully, Sato would walk away virtually unscathed, but the same could not be said for his car, which will need extensive repairs in order to be able to race. It would be safe to say that this is not the start to the season that Sato, last year’s Texas pole-sitter, was hoping for.

Andretti’s Alexander Rossi, will line-up eighth on the grid after a somewhat disappointing run compared to his team-mates, Hunter-Reay and Veach. He will be hoping to move up in the race if he wants to challenge for the victory. Sophomore driver, Felix Rosenqvist, will head the fifth row of the grid in ninth place, with the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hoping to start off his second IndyCar season in style and show an improvement on the ovals compared to last year.

Rounding out the top ten will be A.J. Foyt Racing‘s Tony Kanaan. The veteran driver will be making his last-ever start at Texas Motor Speedway tonight and will be running the classic 7-Eleven livery that he won with at the speedway in 2004. His team-mate, Charlie Kimball, will line-up just behind in twelfth place.

It was a disappointing run for Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport‘s Colton Herta. The American had been running in the 214-mph range in practice, but he could only manage a run of 212.697-mph in qualifying after losing time on his second lap. He will line-up just behind Ed Carpenter – who bounced back well after a spin in practice – and just ahead of James Hinchcliffe in the #29 Andretti Honda.

It was a decent qualifying for rookie Alex Palou. The Dale Coyne Racing rookie took it steadily in his first IndyCar qualifying session for his first oval race later tonight. He will line-up in sixteenth place. His team-mate, Santino Ferrucci, did not set a lap in qualifying after the team withdrew him from the session. The team explained that they were not happy with their setup for qualifying and would instead be focussing on making sure that the car is good for the race.

Starting just behind Palou will be seventeenth-placed Marcus Ericsson. The Swedish driver was the first to set a lap in qualifying and could only manage a run of 212.040-mph. He will start just ahead of the first of the two Arrow McLaren SP cars, with Patricio O’Ward qualifying in eighteenth for his first oval race in the NTT IndyCar Series. O’Ward’s rookie team-mate, Oliver Askew, will start just behind in twentieth; with Carlin‘s Conor Daly sandwiched in-between them.

The last driver to complete a qualifying run would be Meyer Shank Racing‘s, Jack Harvey. The British driver set a two-lap average of just 205.647-mph and will likely be hoping just to finish tonight’s race unscathed and to use the event as a learning experience as he starts his first oval race outside of the Indianapolis 500.

Three drivers did not complete qualifying runs and will, therefore, start at the back of the field. These include the aforementioned Takuma Sato and Santino Ferrucci, as well as Ed Carpenter Racing’s rookie, Rinus VeeKay. After crashing early in practice, the Dutch driver’s #21 Chevrolet was still undergoing repairs as qualifying began. He will have a tough mountain to climb if he is able to start the race tonight, with just eleven laps of practice under his belt.

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

2020 NTT IndyCar Series – Genesys 300 – Texas Motor Speedway – Qualifying results:

11Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske48.0578215.740
29Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing48.0806215.638
322Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske48.1193215.464
428Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport48.3783214.311
526Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport48.4530213.981
612Will PowerAUSTeam Penske48.4645213.930
715Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing48.4763213.878
827Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport48.5191213.689
910Felix RosenqvistSWEChip Ganassi Racing48.5484213.560
1014Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Racing48.5876213.388
1198Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport48.6326213.190
124Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Racing48.7264212.780
1320Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing48.7414212.714
1488Colton HertaUSAAndretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport48.7455212.697
1529James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Autosport48.7669212.603
1655Alex Palou (R)ESPDale Coyne Racing48.7896212.504
178Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing48.8965212.040
185Patricio O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP48.9027212.013
1959Conor DalyUSACarlin49.0386211.425
207Oliver Askew (R)USAArrow McLaren SP49.1749210.839
2160Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing50.4164205.647
2218Santino FerrucciUSADale Coyne RacingDNQDNQ
2330Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingDNQDNQ
2421Rinus VeeKay (R)NETEd Carpenter RacingDNQDNQ
(R) – Denotes Livery
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