Josef Newgarden was fast early and late in the final practice session prior to qualifying, and thanks to that pace, the Team Penske driver posted the best lap in the 45-minute outing at Road America with a 1m45.3399s tour in the No. 2 Chevy.
In cooler temperatures than what they experienced on Friday, the usual flurry of quick qualifying simulation laps on Firestone’s faster red-banded tires saw Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta run P2 in the No. 26 Honda (+0.1331s) and Graham Rahal in P3 with the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda (+0.1785s).
Newgarden was obviously pleased with his car’s performance, but registered concern over the accelerated rate of degradation with Firestone reds, which were approximately a half-second faster than the more durable primaries around the 4.0-mile road course, but come with limited lifespan.
“I definitely think they fall off,” Newgarden said. “That’s a good keyword for this weekend. They’re just high-deg; I don’t know what’s happened in the last 12 months, but it seems like there’s definitely a big deg drop off, which is challenging. It’s very fun, I think to watch, because people are going to struggle. So we’ll see what we’ve got this afternoon.”
The rest of the top six was comprised of Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean in P4 in the No. 51 Honda (+0.4301s), the impressive Ed Carpenter Racing Rinus VeeKay substitute Oliver Askew in P5 with the No. 21 Chevy (+0.4554s), and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou in the No. 10 Honda (+0.5237s).
The only bits of drama in the session came courtesy of Cody Ware and a large piece of debris. For Ware, it was a spin and stall in the No. 52 DCRwRWR Honda that brought out a red flag, and down in P22, CGR’s Scott Dixon lost a considerable portion of the session when something on the track went under his No. 9 Honda and destroyed a portion of the underwing.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 19, 2021
His mechanics pulled off a minor miracle by returning to the transporter, placing the car on high stands, replacing as much as they could, and getting the car back out for Dixon to get a brief glimpse of how the Firestone reds performed ahead of qualifying.
Continuing his IndyCar education on Day 2 of the the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy experience, Kevin Magnussen was more than 1.2 seconds faster than he managed on Friday, clocking a best lap that was within 1.6117s of Newgarden, which was good enough for P20. Teammate Pato O’Ward was P7, +0.5306s shy of the Penske driver.
Fastest Driver: Josef Newgarden, 1m45.3399s
Slowest Driver: Cody Ware, 1m49.2264s
Most Laps Turned: 16, Dalton Kellett
• Another solid run for A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais in P8 with the No. 14 Chevy.
• Nice job by Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones to run P17 after losing all of Friday to an electrical fire.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 2:30 p.m. ET, on Peacock
AS IT HAPPENED…
The 45-minute session saw 25 cars head out and through the first 10 minutes, Josef Newgarden was fastest at a 1m45.9559s. Ryan Hunter-Reay was P2 at a 1m46.2751s, and Pato O’Ward was P3 with a 1m46.3914s as Cody Ware spun at Canada Corner, stalled, and brought out a red flag.
At the time of the red, Kevin Magnussen was P17 at a 1m48.8714, +0.4710 to Newgarden in three laps.
The green flew with 31 minutes remaining, and as teams got to work on their final race setup running, some movement took place towards the top of the times as Oliver Askew leapt to P3 with a 1m46.3839s. At 21 minutes to go, Jack Harvey took P3 from Askew with a 1m46.2965s. Scott McLaughlin moved to P7 with a 1m46.5462, and one minute later, O’Ward shot to P2 with a 1m46.0335 as Newgarden’s fastest lap continued to hold P1 as the field remained on Firestone’s primary tires. Magnussen was P21 at a 1m47.5533, and Scott Dixon’s car was sent back to the trailer for repairs to the underwing after a piece of debris damaged the bottom of the car.
As the clock wound down to 10 minutes, Askew was the first to take the Firestone reds to P1 with a 1m45.7953s lap. Will Power was next at 1m45.9502. Newgarden took charge of P1 next with a 1m45.3399s, Askew remained in P2, and Sebastien Bourdais knocked Power from P3 with a 1m45.9051s lap.
With just under five minutes to complete, O’Ward took P3 for a few seconds and then it was taken by Alex Palou, who was immediately displaced by a succession of Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, and Romain Grosjean as quick qualifying sims shuffled the top 10.
Dixon made it back out to give the red tires a try with two minutes on the clock while holding P24, and in P20, Magnussen tried the faster tires and posted a lap of a 1m46.9516s.