Josef Newgarden Takes Long Beach Pole Amidst Controversial Officiating for Fellow Title Contenders

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(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Josef Newgarden, the mathematical underdog for the championship, earned pole for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, setting himself up to earn maximum points to give him a shot at a title.

In the past two races, Newgarden has struggled in qualifying, starting those races sixteenth and seventeenth, but now puts himself in the best position to capitalize on the controversial rulings that see his title rivals Alex Palou and Patricio O’Ward outside of the fast six in tenth and eighth respectively.

In the second round of qualifying, the Fast Twelve, a local yellow was thrown for Will Power, who dealt with a shifting issue and stopped on track. Palou and O’Ward slowed down as per the rules of the local yellow, but were bumped down the order by Felix Rosenqvist, James Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones, who all improved on their final laps knocking the title contenders out of the next round.

Both camps wanted there to be penalties for the trio for failing to slow down for the yellow flags, and so the teams waited for nearly 20 minutes awaiting an official ruling. After much deliberation, only Jones was penalized, and neither contender made it through. Only Rosenqvist was in a position to advance and was able to having not been penalized.

While Palou might not have had a shot to advance, being behind O’Ward as it stood, the Arrow McLaren SP camp was not happy with the decision, with AMSP President Taylor Kiel even stating that his own driver Rosenqvist should not have made it through according to the team’s own telemetry.

O’Ward himself was very disappointed at IndyCar’s decision making that might have cost him a shot at the title.

“IndyCar is never consistent with their calls,” O’Ward said as the final round of qualifying was underway. “They need to review that because we should be in the fast six right now.”

Palou, on the other hand, was not as worried.

“[We’ll] just focus on ourselves, try to do the best we can tomorrow.” he said post-elimination. “If we do a good job we’ll get the championship home, otherwise we can not really focus on what other cars are doing.”

Despite starting in the middle of the field, Alex Palou only needs to finish eleventh or higher to win the championship. (Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Alongside Newgarden will be Scott Dixon on the front row, with the two title rivals from the 2020 season set to duel once more. Behind them were the surprise duo of Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, who will start third and fourth respectively.

Fifth was Rosenqvist, continuing his momentum from the earlier practice session, alongside Grosjean in sixth. The Swiss-born Frenchman has a significant starting advantage now over Scott McLaughlin, who he is fighting for the Rookie of the Year title. McLauglin was eliminated as a part of the supergroup Group 1 in the first round of qualifying and starts thirteenth.

Hinchcliffe will start seventh having not been penalized, alongside O’Ward to make up row four. Palou will be joined on row five by Jones, who will start ninth.

Despite being wrapped up in the controversy of the day, Power’s journey to starting twelfth is one worth telling. In the first round of qualifying, Power made heavy contact in turn eight with Jack Harvey, who crashed into the tyre barrier. Power’s suspension and rear wing sustained heavy damage, and the team went right to work to get the car together.

They were able to put his car together in time to get him out for a run in round two, but unfortunately we know how it ended from there. Regardless, Team Penske deserves a round of applause for their efforts on repairing the car.

Two other notable omissions from the top of the field are the Andretti Autosport teammates of Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta. Rossi failed to advance out of the Group 1 supergroup, but Herta, who has been dominant all weekend, had an attempt to qualify on an alternate strategy go awry.

Herta dominated Group 2 of round one, spending most of the session on the black primary tyres. Pushing hard, he made contact with the wall that damaged the rear tow links, which coupled with leaving it late to switch to alternate red tyres, saw him fall out of the session. Herta will start buried in the field in fourteenth with Rossi behind him in fifteenth.

The final race of the season, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, will take place tomorrow 26 September at 1500 EST / 1200 PST / 2000 BST.

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Qualifying Results

12Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:08.224 sec.
29Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:08.442 sec.
306Helio CastronevesBRAMeyer Shank Racing1:08.482 sec.
422Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:08.651 sec.
57Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SP1:08.746 sec.
651Romain Grosjean (R)FRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing1:08.757 sec.
729James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Steinbrenner Autosport1:08.714 sec.
85Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP1:08.833 sec.
918Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan1:08.879 sec.
1010Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing1:08.946 sec.
1128Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:09.133 sec.
1212Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:09.227 sec.
133Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske1:08.861 sec.
1426Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport1:09.109 sec.
1527Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:08.994 sec.
1630Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:09.381 sec.
178Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing1:09.136 sec.
1877Callum Ilott (R)GBRJuncos Hollinger Racing1:09.436 sec.
1915Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:09.399 sec.
2011Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:09.679 sec.
2120Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:09.581 sec.
2214Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:09.702 sec.
2359Max ChiltonGBRCarlin1:09.752 sec.
2421Rinus VeekayNEDEd Carpenter Racing1:09.760 sec.
2560Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing1:10.466 sec.
264Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:09.914 sec.
2748Jimmie Johnson (R)USAChip Ganassi Racing1:10.512 sec.
2845Oliver AskewUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:10.017 sec.
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