Power pips Harvey to take Indy GP pole position

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Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Team Penske‘s Will Power will start on pole position for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Australian will lead the field to the green flag on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit for the fourth time in his career, with British driver Jack Harvey starting alongside him on the front row of an IndyCar grid for the first time.

The sun continued to beat down on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as qualifying began for the second race of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series and the first road course race of the year. As was the case last year, road course and street circuit qualifying sessions are divided into three rounds. Q1 sees the entire field split into two groups, with the fastest six drivers in each group going through to Q2. The fastest six drivers will again advance out of Q2 and into the pole-position shoot-out in Q3.

As Q1 began, there were fears that the Goodyear rubber laid down by the NASCAR XFINITY Series prior to qualifying could make the racing surface slippery for those first out onto the track. However, the drivers were pleasantly surprised to find that the track was not as bad as they believed it would be.

Oliver Askew would top the first group of Q1 to easily advance, with the second group being led by Will Power. Perhaps the most surprising scalp from Q1 would be the defending Indy Grand Prix race winner, Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman simply could not put a fast enough lap-time on the board in the second group and would be eliminated in round one of qualifying. Also eliminated, perhaps surprisingly, would be Santino Ferrucci, Patricio O’Ward and Spencer Pigot; with all three drivers having shown decent speed prior to elimination.

The ten-minute Q2 session would be led by Askew, with the Arrow McLaren SP driver starting to turn heads with his impressive pace. After the drivers complete their initial laps on the slower, primary tyre compound, Askew would improve to jump up into the top spot with the first lap of qualifying inside the 1:09’s.

The arguable favourite for pole, Penske’s Will Power, would surprise many by pitting after his first lap instead of making a second attempt, but both he and his team-mate, Josef Newgarden, would do so intentionally to try and have less wear on the tyres that they would be trying to take pole position with in the final session. Luckily for both, the rest of the field’s second laps were not fast enough to drop them into the elimination zone.

More surprise scalps, including the likes of Scott Dixon and last year’s Indy GP pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist, would provide an interesting line-up for the top-six shootout for pole position. Askew, Power and Newgarden would also be joined by Graham Rahal, Colton Herta and Jack Harvey.

Four of the six drivers would elect to make two runs in the final session for pole position, with Newgarden and Askew waiting until the dying moments to make just one run. Power would hit the top of the time-sheets first with a 1:10.6, but his lap would be eclipsed by Meyer Shank Racing‘s Harvey. The British driver would go three tenths quicker to take provisional pole with a lap-time of 1:10.3653, with Herta and Rahal slotting into third and fourth.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

The final runs would soon get underway, with Newgarden the first in the queue to get out for what would be his one and only run with fresher tyres. However, Josef would go way too deep in the braking zone for turn twelve at the start of his lap. He would run onto the grass on the outside of the corner and would immediately abort his lap and come back to the pits.

Herta, Askew and Rahal similarly didn’t appear to have the pace to try and snatch pole position for themselves. This left Harvey trying to see if he could improve and hold off any potential fast-lap by Power. Harvey’s second run wouldn’t yield a lap-time improvement, but Power’s would. The Australian would use his one-lap fresher tyres to great effect and would put in a lap-time of 1:10.1779 to secure himself pole position.

The result would be Power’s fifty-eighth pole position in the NTT IndyCar Series. He now sits just nine pole positions away from equaling Mario Andretti‘s tally of sixty-seven pole positions. Tomorrow will also be the fourth time that Power will start the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on pole position. What is worrying for the field is that Power has won the Indy GP three times from pole position and is one of only two drivers to have ever won the race since it joined the calendar in 2014.

Whilst understandably disappointed to have just missed out on claiming his first NTT IndyCar Series pole position, Jack Harvey was elated with his career-best starting position of second place. The British driver started last year’s Indy GP from third on the grid and took his first podium. This year, he’ll be hoping that starting in second would allow him to be in contention for his first victory.

Colton Herta and Graham Rahal will share the second row of the grid. Arrow McLaren SP’s Oliver Askew will start in an impressive fifth place for his second IndyCar race. Reigning champion, Josef Newgarden, will start in a somewhat disappointing sixth-place after not setting a lap in the final session.

Championship-leader Scott Dixon missed out on a spot in Q3 by just five-hundredths of a second. He will start tomorrow’s race in seventh place. Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Conor Daly drove through setup issues early on to take a solid eighth place on the grid, with last year’s Indy GP pole-sitter, Felix Rosenqvist, only managing ninth on the grid this time around.

A great run for Max Chilton saw the British driver take Carlin to tenth place on the grid. Alexander Rossi will start the race down in eleventh place after encountering issues with his car’s setup. His Andretti team-mate, Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top twelve that made it out of the first round of qualifying. Ryan had an off-track excursion at turn twelve and narrowly avoided impeding Oliver Askew.

The drivers eliminated in Q1 would make up the remaining spots, with the drivers in group one taking the odd-numbered positions and the drivers in group two taking the even-numbered positions. Patricio O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson were the unfortunate drivers to just miss out on Q2 in positions thirteen and fourteen respectively.

Last year’s Indy GP race winner, Simon Pagenaud, will start down in twentieth place. As the only driver on the grid other than Power to have won the race, he will have a tough task ahead of him if he wants to be in contention for a fourth Indy GP win.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2020 NTT IndyCar Series – GMR Grand Prix – Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Qualifying results:

112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:10.1779
260Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing1:10.3653
388Colton HertaUSAAndretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport1:10.5197
415Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:10.5197
57Oliver Askew (R)USAArrow McLaren SP1:10.8404
61Josef NewgardenUSATeam PenskeNo time
79Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:10.1990
820Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:10.2169
910Felix RosenqvistSWEChip Ganassi Racing1:10.2310
1059Max ChiltonGBRCarlin1:10.3055
1127Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:10.3507
1228Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:10.5764
135Patricio O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP1:10.7333
148Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing1:10.6287
1518Santino FerrucciUSADale Coyne Racing1:10.7902
1645Spencer PigotUSACitrone / Buhl Autosport with RLLR1:10.6350
1730Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:10.8853
1821Rinus VeeKay (R)NETEd Carpenter Racing1:10.7070
1929James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Autosport1:11.1478
2022Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:10.7438
2155Alex Palou (R)ESPDale Coyne Racing1:11.1815
2226Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport1:11.2762
2324Sage KaramUSADreyer & Reinbold Racing1:11.7774
244Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Racing1:11.4026
2598Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport1:12.0513
2614Dalton Kellett (R)CANA.J. Foyt Racing1:11.5876
(R) – Denotes rookie
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