Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward claimed his third career pole position Saturday morning at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park. The young Mexican out-dueled Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi with a flying lap of 1m15.5776s around the low-grid and extra bumpy street course in the No. 5 Chevy. Rossi came close in the No. 27 Honda (+0.0808s), but it wasn’t enough to displace the 21-year-old phenom.
“You need to put so much faith in this place, that the car’s gonna stick,” O’Ward said. “The faster you go here and the more you attack, the more grip you have. You just have to go for it. Honestly, I’m a little surprised.”
Behind O’Ward and Rossi, the stars of qualifying were the Dale Coyne Racing duo of Romain Grosjean and Ed Jones in P3 and P3. Grosjean’s No. 51 Honda co-entered with Rick Ware Racing (+0.1657s) and Jones’ No. 18 Honda co-entered with Vasser Sullivan (+0.2343s) put all but one car from Andretti, all four from Chip Ganassi Racing, and all four from Team Penske behind them to lay claim to the second row.
First of the Penske drivers was Josef Newgarden in P5 with the No. 2 Chevy (+0.2921s), and Andretti’s Colton Herta completed the top six in the No. 26 Honda (+0.5056s). Penske’s Will Power was charging on his final lap, but made contact with the wall and was relegated to P7, and after that, the rest of the top 12 were simply lacking front-running pace with Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, a lowly Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in P11, and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay at the bottom of the order.
Teams and drivers have just over two hours until the green flag waves over the 70-lap race.
Fastest Driver: Pato O’Ward, 1m15.5776s
Slowest Driver: Dalton Kellett, 1m19.0998s
• Rough session for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with its three-driver line-up starting P16 (Takuma Sato), P20 (Graham Rahal), and P22 (Santino Ferrucci).
• Another similar note for Ganassi with its drivers starting P11 (Dixon), P15 (Marcus Ericsson), P22 (Jimmie Johnson), and P25 (Alex Palou).
UP NEXT: Chevrolet GP of Detroit Race 1, 2:00 p.m. ET, NBC
AS IT HAPPENED
The two-round knockout qualifying format saw half the field open the 10-minute session with Romain Grosjean and Rinus VeeKay taking turns atop the 12 drivers in the group. VeeKay’s 1m17.4251s lap was strong, leaving Grosjean to find more than a quarter second. Simon Pagenaud jumped up to P2 with a 1m17.5917s, and moments later, with three minutes left, James Hinchcliffe lowered the best lap to a 1m17.0691s.
Pagenaud responded with a 1m16.9639, and after that, it was a flurry of activity as Alexander Rossi moved to P1 with a 1m16.5349s lap, VeeKay took P2 with a 1m16.8172s, and Grosjean followed in P3 with a 1m16.8385s. Rossi improved his P1 with a staggering lap of 1m15.8507s., a full 0.8208s clear of Grosjean.
The top six transferring were Rossi, Grosjean, VeeKay, a last-minute leaper to P4 in Pato O’Ward, Pagenaud, and a spirited Will Power, who knocked Hinchcliffe out of P6 on his final lap.
Those on the outside were Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson, who saved a set of Firestone reds, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Alex Palou, Jimmie Johnson, and Dalton Kellett, who made light contact on his final lap and sat stalled in the middle of the track as the checkered flag waved.
With a six-spot grid penalty looming for an unapproved engine change leading into the Indy 500, championship leader Palou will have the entire field to pass if he has designs on winning the race.
The second group featured early fast laps from Colton Herta and Takuma Sato with six minutes remaining, and then the rush to record laps on Firestone reds began. Santino Ferrucci was the first among the best with P1 at a 1m16.6880s. It took until almost two minutes to go for the times to improve as Ed jones took over P1 with a 1m16.2569s lap, and with a little over one minute remaining, Josef Newgarden made a statement with a 1m15.9020s lap for P1 and Jones took it back almost immediately with a 1m15.8696s. Behind them, Herta was in P3 with a 1m15.9889s lap, and with the checkered flag waving, Newgarden lowered P1 to 1m15.6606s.
The typical last-lap shuffles saw Herta improve to P2, Jones fall to P3, Ryan Hunter-Reay claim P4, Sebastien Bourdais jump into the top six in P5, and Scott Dixon lose and regain P6.
Those who would go no farther started with Felix Rosenqvist and continued with Sato, Max Chilton, Graham Rahal, Santino Ferrucci, and Scott McLaughlin.
With P13-P25 settled, the final qualifying round to determine P1-P12 for Round 1 gave drivers another 10 minutes to get their work done. Newgarden was first to lead ahead of O’Ward, Hunter-Reay, and Grosjean as the clock counted down to six minutes remaining. It changed to Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Power, Herta, and Grosjean as almost everyone pitted for fresh Firestone reds to start their shots at pole.
Jones registered the first best lap on reds with a 1m16.2715s lap. Herta took P1 for a moment before Grosjean claimed P1 with a 1m15.7433s lap. Jones responded in P2 with a 1m15.8119s ahead of Newgarden’s 1m15.8697s.
O’Ward, with 45 seconds left, went to P1 with a 1m15.5776s lap as Rossi inserted himself in P2 with a 1m15.6584s. Third career pole for O’Ward.