The last time an NTT IndyCar Series began with nine different drivers winning pole across the first nine races, Bobby Lewis was the the top-charting Billboard single artist and West Side Story was on its way to winning Best Picture.
Pato O’Ward was pole winner #9 on Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, setting a time of 1:06.70 that beat Scott McLaughlin by .13 of a second. In helping IndyCar set the different pole-sitters milestone last achieved in 1961, O’Ward notched his fifth career pole and third on a road course after Road America in 2020 and Barber last year. He also scored his best qualifying spot at Mid-Ohio by a wide margin as his previous best was fifteenth in his track début in 2020.
Despite the pole, O’Ward described it as “really messy” as “I kept leaving three, four, even half a second on the table just because I couldn’t get it right. If it wasn’t turn blah-blah, it was another. It was really tough to get it right, so I’m super happy to get it together for the team in Q3.”
“I’ve had very successful weekends here in junior formulas but haven’t really capitalised a weekend here in IndyCar, so I think this is the first step. I’m excited for tomorrow. I think we will have a strong race car as we’ve had in the past; the problem is we just haven’t really had that chance to make our life a little bit easier during the race. I’ve had to pass so many cars.”
The session was not without incident for O’Ward, who blocked rookie David Malukas during the second round and prevented him from setting a strong time to make the Firestone Fast Six. IndyCar elected not to penalise O’Ward for the hindrance and Malukas placed eighth, still good enough to be the highest qualifying rookie.
“I am very angry,” said Malukas. “We were being impeded, [O’Ward] didn’t even get an impedement (penalty) for it and we left a little bit on the box there, we missed the Fast Six. It’s really unfortunate I couldn’t show everything that the Dale Coyne car had today. It was spectacular. We tried to put things for the first practice, made it into the top six for the first group, and switched it all together to go for the second qualifying and it was right where we needed it to be.
“It was unfortunate we ended up getting blocked there and couldn’t make it in. But overall, the fact that we’re unhappy for P8, I think it shows that we’re going in the right direction.”
O’Ward simply described the matter as “not my problem. I think he’s got to learn how to distance himself and learn that. He put himself in that position. The red tyres were coming in on lap three and he was on my gearbox in lap one. It’s like, ‘You think I’m going to let you by or something?’ I’m in my programme too.
“I don’t think I was doing anything wrong there. I was gapping to Simon and he decided not to do so, and he had a pretty big gap. Usually, people respect when someone gaps in front of you, they keep gapping so you’re not really under threat. I saw that, I was also surprised. I was like, ‘Why was he backing away?’ But yeah, he did that to himself.”
Although he fell short of the pole, McLaughlin’s qualifying effort is his best at a road course, trumping his fourth at Barber in May. The rest of the Fast Six consisted of Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon, and Simon Pagenaud. All but Pagenaud have won a pole in 2022, though Pagenaud enjoys his third Fast Six qualification of the year.
Will Power received a qualifying interference penalty when he impeded Hélio Castroneves‘ flying lap while warming his tyres, forcing Castroneves to swerve before going through the grass. As a result, Power’s time—which would have topped his group’s—was void and he was relegated to a starting position of twenty-first.
While the penalty leaves Power in a difficult spot for Sunday, it did little to help championship leader Marcus Ericsson and 2021 Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden‘s qualifying runs as they fell short of making the second round. They will respectively start thirteenth and fourteenth, just ahead of Castroneves.
Despite so many contenders at the back, O’Ward knows not to underestimate the race.
“If you look at it, it’s a great opportunity to capitalise, but there are certain rules that can really throw your race upside-down if something happens that you really can’t control,” he continued. “Sometimes, it is a lot better to be starting at the back, as we saw at Portland last year, than being in the front. I think we’ve definitely executed when qualifying came, and I think tomorrow, we just need to take the race as it comes and just be sure that we can react to certain things to keep our position.”
|Position||Number||Driver||Team||Best Time||Best Speed (mph)|
|1||5||Pato O’Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||01:06.7054||121.861|
|2||3||Scott McLaughlin||Team Penske||01:06.8382||121.619|
|3||26||Colton Herta||Andretti Autosport||01:07.0262||121.278|
|4||7||Felix Rosenqvist||Arrow McLaren SP||01:07.2163||120.935|
|5||9||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:07.4047||120.597|
|6||60||Simon Pagenaud||Meyer Shank Racing||01:07.4199||120.570|
|7||10||Álex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:06.7965||121.695|
|8||18||David Malukas||Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports||01:06.8201||121.652|
|9||14||Kyle Kirkwood||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||01:06.9506||121.415|
|10||77||Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger Racing||01:06.9534||121.410|
|11||21||Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter Racing||01:06.9843||121.354|
|12||27||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||01:07.0155||121.297|
|13||8||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:07.1475||121.059|
|14||2||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||01:07.3338||120.724|
|15||06||Hélio Castroneves||Meyer Shank Racing||01:07.1798||121.001|
|16||30||Christian Lundgaard||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:07.4207||120.568|
|17||28||Romain Grosjean||Andretti Autosport||01:07.2573||120.861|
|18||15||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:07.5909||120.265|
|19||51||Takuma Sato||Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing||01:07.4645||120.490|
|20||29||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Autosport||01:07.6475||120.164|
|21||12||Will Power||Team Penske||01:07.5559||120.327|
|22||20||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||01:07.6745||120.116|
|23||4||Dalton Kellett||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||01:08.2444||119.113|
|24||45||Jack Harvey||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||01:07.9362||119.653|
|25||16||Simona De Silvestro||Paretta Autosport||01:08.4995||118.669|
|26||11||Tatiana Calderón||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||01:08.4370||118.778|
|27||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:08.5318||118.614|