The driver needing to leave his bad luck behind and rebound this weekend at the Portland Grand Prix got exactly what he needed as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou captured pole position for Sunday’s 110-lap race.
The Spaniard’s lap of 58.7701s topped Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi in the final seconds of the Firestone Fast Six session, leaving the American a scant 0.0872s arrears in the No. 27 Honda.
“It was really intense,” Palou said. “We needed this one. We’ve been super competitive throughout this season, but we’ve never got that pole. But we got it here.”
Scott Dixon was third in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with a lap 0.0972s shy of his teammate, and behind him Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist led the team in qualifying with fourth in the No. 7 Chevy (+0.1804s).
Graham Rahal was on the outside of making the Fast Six but put in an amazing final lap to ensure he transferred and earned fifth (+0.2366s)
Colton Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda was left sixth after opting to use Firestone’s primary tires in the final round of knockout qualifying in place of the faster red-banded alternate tires.
“Sixth is not a terrible place to start,” he said.
Just outside the Fast Six, points leader Pato O’Ward wasn’t overly disappointed to be seventh in the No. 5 AMSP Chevy.
“Honestly, we always want to be in the Fast Six,” he said. “I’m happy where we ended from where we started in Q1. I don’t think it’s too bad. Have a clean race, get through Turn 1, and move forward.”
Ed Jones was an impressive eighth for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, and RLL’s Oliver Askew made a strong impression in his first qualifying session in the No. 45 Honda with ninth.
“I think a top 10 in qualifying with how competitive it is, is really solid,” said Askew, who was just ahead of CGR’s Marcus Ericsson who ran 10th.
The big performer was Carlin Racing and Max Chilton, who made it to the Firestone Fast 12 and earned 11th, just ahead of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, as a number of bigger teams fell short of matching the one-car team’s effort.
Heading in the wrong direction, the other big news from qualifying for the Portland GP came with the surprising absence of Team Penske inside the Fast 12. Scott McLaughlin was knocked out out of the first round in his group and was left in 15th, and all three teammates, led by Will Power in 14th, title contender Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud in 26th were dropped from the top six in the other opening group.
“It’s not ideal,” said Newgarden, who holds third in the championship and will roll off in 18th place. “It’s a little bit surprising.”
If there was another unexpected surprise after Chilton and Carlin, it came with IndyCar newcomer Callum Ilott, who qualified 19th on his debut with the returning Juncos Hollinger Racing team.
Elsewhere, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean was fast enough to transfer out of the opening round, but IndyCar officials said the Frenchman engaged in blocking during his run and lost his fastest laps. He will start 21st.
Ryan Hunter-Reay did not take part in qualifying after a late and unapproved engine change was required in his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda. It marked the second Honda engine change leading into qualifying, and RACER has learned both units were freshly installed coming into the weekend and suffered unrelated problems.
Hunter-Reay will start last after a six-spot grid penalty is applied for the change.