Josef Newgarden captured the pole for Saturday night’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The reigning and two-time IndyCar champion was the last of 24 drivers to go out, and put down a two-lap qualifying run averaging 215.740 mph.
“I don’t know that I’m surprised, but I will say that this feels awkward,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. “There are no fans. There’s no crowd in the paddock. But, it’s great to be back doing what we love. I love driving an Indy car and getting to work with these great people at Team Penske. We just have a blast trying to make these cars go fast.
“I don’t want to say I was surprised,” Newgarden went on. “It felt like the car was quick. I didn’t know if we had enough to beat [Scott] Dixon; he looked really good in his qual trim. I felt the XPEL car was great. I just tried to do the best I could to stay flat. That’s just all I had to do was keep it pinned around the track. The car was perfect.”
Five-time champion Dixon, who led the day’s only practice, posted the second-fastest time, a narrow .017s off the top spot. Newgarden’s teammate, Simon Pagenuad, ended up third.
After an incident in practice that ended with repairs to the front and rear right side suspension, along with a damaged front wing, Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded in a big way, finishing fourth in qualifying at 214.311 mph. He was followed by Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach in fifth.
Will Power, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist and Tony Kanaan round out the remainder of the top 10. Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion, will make his 318th consecutive start tonight (8:00 p.m. ET on NBC).
The only incident in qualifying involved Takuma Sato. The 2017 Indianapolis 500 champion was the 14th driver to go out and was setting up his first of a two-lap qualifying run when entered high into Turn 1. Almost instantly on entry the backend of his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda snapped around and hit nose first into the outside wall before sliding to a stop in Turn 2.
The team reports they will be repairing the damaged car as moving to a backup car would require a more time-consuming engine change.
Sato won’t be the only front runner forced to start tonight’s race from the back: Santino Ferrucci’s Dale Coyne Vasser-Sullivan Honda missed qualifying altogether.
Apologies from the RACER.com team that we’re unable to bring you our usual in-depth photographic coverage from today’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Due to on-site personnel limits and protocols implemented by INDYCAR for the evolving COVID-19 situation, our photographic partner Motorsport Images has been precluded from taking part in this event. We are working to rectify this situation and to ensure that we can deliver the level of coverage you’ve come to expect and enjoy during the remaining races of the 2020 IndyCar season. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy our alternative visual take on events in The Lone Star State. As always, we appreciate your continued support of RACER.com.