With intermittent drops of rain starting to fall 20 minutes before the start of qualifying for Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Road America, the rush was on to get through all of the knockout rounds before the skies truly opened up and in the end, it was Alexander Rossi who rocketed to his first pole since 2019.
Quickest on Friday, Rossi made use of limited time in Saturday morning’s practice session to take P4, and with a chance to continue his impressive streak of late, the Andretti Autosport driver eked out P1 with a lap of 1m44.8656s in the No. 27 Honda. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was impossibly close in second, setting a 1m44.9371s — just 0.0715s shy — in the No. 2 Chevy.
“It’s pretty crazy to just think it’s been so long,” Rossi said. “Yeah, it just shows the belief of the whole organization. The 27 Honda guys have been good for a month, and it’s continuing on. We rolled off strong. It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of right now. Just really proud of the guys and the team.”
Rossi and Newgarden were in a world of their own as P3 Alex Palou was a full half-second slower in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (1m45.3822s). Teammate Marcus Ericsson nearly matched Palou’s time in the No. 8 CGR Honda (1m45.4240s) and finishing up the Fast Six, Andretti’s Colton Herta (1m45.5388s) in the No. 26 Honda and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward (1m45.6826s) in the No. 5 Chevy were further adrift in a session that concluded without rain being a hindrance.
The Firestone Fast 12 lasted all of one lap before a red flag was required to extricate Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott, who locked the brakes and went into the tire barriers in the final corner. The No. 77 Chevy was fired and dispatched to pit lane where Ilott sat for the rest of the session and was duly credited with P12.
Late to get rolling with just over five minutes left to run due to his car failing to engage first gear, an animated Romain Grosjean spent a single sideways lap giving his all to make the Fast Six but came up 0.081s short in P7 with the No. 28 Andretti Honda.
“That was a hell of a lap; I tried everything I could,” Grosjean said.
AMSP’s Felix Rosenqvist was next in the No. 7 Chevy and was followed in P9 by Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in the No. 3 Chevy, CGR’s Scott Dixon in P10 with the No. 9 Honda, Simon Pagenaud in P11 with the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda and was capped by Ilott in his JHR entry.
“I think we got the best of what we had,” Pagenaud said. “You can win from anywhere tomorrow.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rookie Christian Lundgaard showed promise for the team by earning P13 — missing out on transferring to the Fast 12 by 0.0118s — in the No. 30 Honda. Teammates Jack Harvey (P20) and Graham Rahal (P22) were less fortunate.
The big surprise from the first knockout round was the absence of championship leader and pole master Will Power, who produced the eighth-fastest lap and missed the top six transfer. Power’s No. 12 Team Penske Chevy will start P15. Another surprise was Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay who was down in P17 in the No. 21 Chevy; teammate Conor Daly in the second group also struggled as ECR sought speed that proved to be elusive and left his No. 20 Chevy on the same row in P18.
Simona De Silvestro’s competitive nature did not allow her to find any positives from her first IndyCar road course qualifying session in more than half a decade.
“Terrible,” the Paretta Autosport driver said of her performance that led to qualifying P27. “Just really didn’t use the [alternate] tire [to its full potential]. It’s something I need to analyze.”
UP NEXT: Warmup, 5:20 p.m. ET