Josef Newgarden claimed Team Penske’s first pole position of the NTT IndyCar Series season in the Firestone Fast 12 qualifying shootout ahead of this afternoon’s second half of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader. Newgarden rocketed to the front in the final minutes with a lap of 1m14.1094s (114.15mph) that was a full second under yesterday’s pole time around the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park circuit.
“This car’s been fast all weekend — we were really fast in the race yesterday, just unfortunately got caught a lap down with a small mistake,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “But the guys were awesome — we worked our way back to a top 10; I was really proud of the resilience of the team.”
Newgarden admitted that the famously rough Detroit temporary circuit was only rougher for Day 3 as it rubbered up.
“It’s pretty hard — yesterday that final stint, you just start to get wheel-lock, like mechanically it’s binding up. It’s really physical, very difficult to drive. You’re almost hitting the wall because you just feel like you physically can’t turn the car through the corner.
“I tweaked my neck yesterday so I came in here today just trying to survive and we started off pretty good. Hopefully being up front will make our day a little easier.”
Colton Herta will start alongside Newgarden on the front row in his Andretti Autosport Honda, with Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy), Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) and a resurgent Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda) completing the top 5.
Fastest: Josef Newgarden, 1m14.1094s
Slowest: Oliver Askew, 1m19.1486s
• Santino Ferrucci was in the mix in the pole shootout when he slammed the wall in Turn 13 in the final moments of the session, heavily damaging the left-front suspension of the No. 45 Team RLL Honda, leaving his team with a scramble to make the start of Race 2 at 12 p.m. ET.
• Oliver Askew’s last-minute call-up to replace Felix Rosenqvist in the Arrow McLaren SP No. 7 Chevy meant his first laps on the Detroit temporary course came in the 10-minute qualifier. “It was interesting — not as bumpy as everyone said it was going not be,” observed Askew, who also admitted he was also wearing Juan Pablo Montoya’s driving suit!
UP NEXT: Chevrolet GP of Detroit Race 2, 12:00 p.m. ET, NBC
AS IT HAPPENED
As usual, times plummeted in the final two minutes of all of the 10-minute sessions, with the Group A order shuffling repeatedly before Colton Herta emerged on top with a 1m16.0809s ahead of Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon — both of whom cracked the top six on their final laps. Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci and Ed Jones were the other members of the group to progress to the second round, while Sebastian Bourdais (knocked out by the final laps), Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Scott McLaughlin and Oliver Askew were sidelined.
Romain Grosjean, Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly set the pace through the first three-quarters of the Group B session before things got serious and easily improved on the first group’s pace. Alexander Rossi moved to the top in his final lap, with a 1m15.4664s to best VeeKay, while Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud (also on the strength of his last lap), Daly and Alex Palou completed the top six. Out of the running were James Hinchcliffe, Pato O’Ward (who brushed the wall and bent the left-rear toe link), Jack Harvey, Will Power, Marcus Ericsson, Dalton Kellett and Jimmie Johnson.
REPLAY: Issues for @PatricioOWard in @detroitgp race 2 qualifying. #INDYCAR // #DetroitGP pic.twitter.com/5Vkf7rTC7P
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 13, 2021
The start of the top-12 pole shootout was problematic for Scott Dixon, who was assessed a a drive-through penalty for “unapproved work” ahead of the session.
Grosjean — whose Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing team was unable to find anything broken to explain their wildly mishandling car in Saturday’s race — demonstrated he was well over whatever issues he’d had by leaping to the top of the early order, before Herta, Rossi, Ferrucci and Palou (on sticker blacks) dipped into the 1m15s halfway through the session. Hertra replaced Palou up top with two minutes to go, but the Spaniard answered immediately. Newgarden and Herta then traded fast laps, before the Penske driver settled things with his staggering 1m14.1094s — more than 0.3s clear of Herta and a second under yesterday’s pole time.
REPLAY: @SantinoFerrucci has been checked and cleared after making contact with the wall in qualifying. #INDYCAR // #DetroitGP // @detroitgp pic.twitter.com/nnp01bPAvL
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 13, 2021
The last chance for fast laps as time expired were ended as Santino Ferrucci slammed the wall in Turn 13, heavily damaging the left-front suspension of the No. 45 Team RLL Honda, leaving his team with a scramble to make the start of the race in just a couple of hours’ time.