Colton Herta absolutely blitzed the field by over one half of a second, winning pole position for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix with the first lap to dip into the 1:13.000 time zone with a 1:13.683. Herta was able to save a fresh set of alternate red-walled Firestone tyres after Q1 and it proved enough to help take his second pole of the season and continue to dominate on the streets of Nashville.
Group One in qualifying saw a great deal of contenders, including Alexander Rossi, Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and three of the four Team Penske drivers. Early in the session a red flag came with Jimmie Johnson smashing into the tyre barriers in turn ten before any official lap time could be recorded. With no guaranteed track time until Q3, time was not on the side of the drivers.
With about three minutes left in the session, teams put on the alternate red-walled Firestone tyres in hopes of getting a time set before the session ends. In the end, Palou went fastest in the session while Graham Rahal, Helio Castroneves and Scott McLaughlin were among those eliminated.
Group Two was headlined by Scott Dixon, Herta and Romain Grosjean, as well as his teammate Cody Ware making his debut on a street course.
Dixon was finally able to dethrone Herta at the end of the session, reaching into the 1:14.000 mark on his final lap. Herta also reached the 1:14.000 mark without even using the red tyres, sitting out the last few minutes of the session and saving his reds.
Grosjean, Jack Harvey, James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud made it into Q2, while Ryan Hunter-Reay narrowly missed advancing by .12 seconds, unfortunately joining Marcus Ericsson and Rinus Veekay as some of those eliminated in the session.
In Q2, it was an early duel at the top between Andretti Autosport teammates Herta and Rossi, but by the time the checkered flag flew Palou was the man on top followed by Rossi and Herta. Hometown hero Josef Newgarden had a serious crash on his last lap, walloping the wall in turn nine. Newgarden, who was sitting in the fast six, then tried to trundle around to an exit road to prevent a red flag and keep his time. However, the debris caused a local yellow that invalidated his best lap time and allowed Grosjean to advance into the Fast Six.
Newgarden was knocked down to twelfth, and joined his teammates Will Power and Pagenaud as those eliminated in Q2 along with O’Ward, who narrowly avoided a wreck of his own, but was not fast enough to move on. His teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, made his first Fast Six of the season as well.
After sitting out the end of his group in Q1, Herta saved a set of fresh alternate tyres to use in this session, as opposed to the other drivers running two sets of slightly used alternate tyres. It proved enough, as he dominated the field yet again to take the pole. Dixon stole second place on his last lap of the session, setting a 1:14.232 lap to start on the front row.
Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou finished third fastest with a lap time of 1:14.631, however the Spaniard will be handed his second six-place grid penalty after an unapproved engine change over the summer break and will start ninth. Rossi finished fourth with a lap of 1:14.664, but will be bumped to third in a stellar qualifying effort.
Rosenqvist finished the session in fifth place, and will start from his highest qualifying position this season of fourth. After plenty of bad luck so far in his first year with Arrow McLaren SP, the Swede finally showed his pace and gets a strong result. Rounding out the fast six was Grosjean, who will start fifth after a lap time of 1:15.389.
Harvey of Meyer Shank Racing will start alongside Grosjean on row three in sixth, the first man eliminated in Q2.
Pagenaud will be the highest starter of the Penske cars, on the inside of row four starting seventh. Alongside him will be O’Ward, who catches a break to stay close to his championship rival Palou.
Next to Palou will be Hinchcliffe, who rounds out the top ten with his best starting position of the season.
The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix will take place tomorrow at 1730 EST / 2230 BST.
Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Qualifying Results
|1||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport||01:13.683 sec.|
|2||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:14.232 sec.|
|3||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:14.631 sec.*|
|4||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||01:14.664 sec.|
|5||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||01:15.004 sec.|
|6||51||Romain Grosjean(R)||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||01:15.398 sec.|
|7||60||Jack Harvey||GBR||Meyer Shank Racing||01:15.130 sec.|
|8||22||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||01:15.135 sec.|
|9||5||Pato O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||01:15.191 sec.|
|10||29||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||01:15.325 sec.|
|11||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||01:15.467 sec.|
|12||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||01:15.506 sec.|
|13||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andrettu Autosport||01:15.498 sec.|
|14||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:16.109 sec.|
|15||14||Sebastien Bourdais||FRA||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||01:15.605 sec.|
|16||6||Helio Castroneves||BRA||Meyer Shank Racing||01:16.347 sec.|
|17||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:15.637 sec.|
|18||45||Santino Ferrucci||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:16.464 sec.|
|19||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||01:15.668 sec.|
|20||4||Dalton Kellett||CAN||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||01:17.151 sec.|
|21||21||Rinus VeeKay||NED||Ed Carpenter Racing||01:15.702 sec.|
|22||59||Max Chilton||GBR||Carlin||01:17.555 sec.|
|23||30||Takuma Sato||JPN||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:15.850 sec.|
|24||3||Scott McLaughlin (R)||NZL||Team Penske||01:18.189 sec.|
|25||18||Ed Jones||UAE||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan||01:15.877 sec.|
|26||48||Jimmie Johnson (R)||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||No Time|
|27||52||Cody Ware (R)||USA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||01:18.092 sec.|