The Firestone Fast Six was an exciting affair on Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca where Colton Herta scored his second consecutive pole at his home state road course. The 2019 Laguna Seca race winner threw down a stellar final lap to knock Team Penske’s Will Power from the top spot, and once the session was over, Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport was untouchable with a lap of 1m10.7994s.
Power’s No. 12 Chevy was assessed a penalty for failing to slow for Pato O’Ward’s spin at the bottom of the Corkscrew, and Herta’s teammate Alexander Rossi was promoted to second in the No. 27 Honda (+0.1957s), giving the team a lockout of the front row.
“I’m glad we ended up doing three [laps] instead of two to beat Power to the pole,” Herta said. “What an amazing track. It’s great to be two for two on poles here. Really happy.”
Power was shuffled to third (+0.3323s), and will share the second row with championship leader Alex Palou from Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Overall, it was a good session,” Palou said of the No. 10 Honda which was 0.5323s behind Herta. “We improved the car and it’s good to start in the second row. I think we’ll be a bit stronger in the race than we were in qualifying, which is a good thing. We know we have a good car.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Oliver Askew shined in fifth as the top representative from RLL in the No. 45 Honda (+1.0947s).
“Very happy with that run,” Askew said. “This is exactly what we needed.”
Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward also lost his best lap time for bringing out a caution flag with his spin; he’ll start sixth in the No. 5 Chevy.
“This was our maximization,” O’Ward said. “The best we did in practice was 20th. Now we need to make the race car faster and go race.”
The Fast 12 was sliced in half with CGR’s Marcus Ericsson as the first driver out in P7. Teammate and remote title contender Scott Dixon was a fair bit behind (+0.6921s) to the group leader. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton, and Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe secured P9 through P11. Meanwhile, Graham Rahal, the driver who survived a big spin halfway up the hill headed to the Corkscrew, was relegated to P12.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 18, 2021
The first round of Firestone Fast 12 qualifying saw two surprises fail to transfer as championship contender Josef Newgarden missed the cut. Ninth fastest in the group of 13, the Team Penske driver will start 17th on Sunday. Another unexpected name to miss the advancing six was Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean, who was seventh in the session and will start 13th.
The second round of Fast 12 qualifying offered one or two notable disappointments, led by Penske’s Scott McLaughlin who led the second practice session but missed the cut in time trials with the eight-fastest lap among the 14 cars in his group. The New Zealander will roll off in 16th.
In an uncomfortable trend, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones matched teammate Grosjean as the first driver to miss the transfer; all he needed was 0.0295s to make it. Grosjean was 0.0027s short, adding up to a total of 0.0322s needed for the DCR duo to make the Fast 12.
Behind them, more tandems struggled in qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing was left with Conor Daly in P18 and Rinus VeeKay in 24th. Meyer Shank Racing felt a similar sting as Jack Harvey was 20th and Helio Castroneves was 22nd.
UP NEXT: Warm-up, 12 p.m. ET Sunday