The battle for pole at the Honda Indy Toronto was a fiery one as a battle of generations saw Colton Herta and Scott Dixon put on a show on the final lap which fell in the Andretti Autosport driver’s favor by just 0.0894s.
Herta rocketed around the 11-turn street course with a remarkable lap of 59.2698s produced by his No. 26 Honda and waited for Dixon to cross the finish line in his Chip Ganassi Racing No. 9 Honda. Dixon’s 59.3592s was close, but not enough as Herta captured his ninth career pole and second of 2022.
“That was an intense session,” Herta said. “We hadn’t really found that time until right to the end. I’m happy. We put it all together. Car’s amazing; team’s amazing. Thank you Honda — a Honda one-two.”
Dixon felt like he had more to give but wasn’t dissatisfied with second.
“The first lap I messed up and I think it altered the run,” he said. “We can win from here. Congrats to Colton.”
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden made an impressive recovery after missing the previous session when an engine change was required, and despite the shortage in lapping, he pushed the No. 2 Chevy to third with a 59.5257s lap.
“It was a good recovery from our crew and the car was great,” he said. “I think we’ve got something to fight with tomorrow.”
Andretti’s Alexander Rossi secured fourth in the No. 27 Honda with a 59.5544s lap. Top honors among Toronto rookies went to Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas who fired the No. 18 Honda into fifth with a 59.6140s run and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin rounded out the top six in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy with a 59.9558s tour.
Beyond a few blocking penalties, the major issue during qualifying came when a number of drivers on fast laps—Graham Rahal and Will Power, in particular—were unable to complete those laps at speed and likely transfer into the Firestone Fast Six segment when A.J. Foyt Racing’s Kyle Kirkwood crashed and brought out yellow flags leading towards the finish line. Rahal and Power start 14th and 16th, respectively.
The opening 10-minute knockout session of qualifying saw McLaughlin set the early standard with a 1m00.0527 which held until the last 90 seconds when Rossi turned a 59.7724s lap. Dixon took the top spot from Rossi with a 59.6996s lap and teammate Marcus Ericsson’s 59.6875 went to first seconds later.
Drivers who failed to transfer were led by Jack Harvey, a disappointed Pato O’Ward — who kissed the wall with the left-rear wheel — Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Jimmie Johnson and Dalton Kellett, who didn’t get to run after a fueling issue was reported.
The second knockout session got off to a strange start as drivers attempted to set a base lap on Firestone’s slower primary tires and a flying Herta happened upon an extremely slow Conor Daly. IndyCar race control judged Daly to have impeded Herta and took away his two fastest laps, which ensured he would not make it into the top six.
A red flag was required halfway through the session as Devlin DeFrancesco, who went to the top with a 1m00.1543s lap, nosed into the Turn 3 tires and needed multiple attempts to reverse and continue. While DeFrancesco was dealing with his issue, Alex Palou experienced some form of engine issue while entering the front straight and shut off the motor after rounding Turn 1. Sitting idle on the track, the red was waved and the AMR Safety Team went to retrieve the car.
At the time of the red, the top six were DeFrancesco, Romain Grosjean, Felix Rosenqvist, Christian Lundgaard, Herta and Newgarden. With the session returning to green after the red flag consumed the rest of the 10-minute session, drivers were given an out lap and one timed lap in order to meet the minimum time guarantee.
Those plans failed as Kyle Kirkwood crashed—twice in a few corners—as he hit the wall with the left-rear corner on the way to Turn 8, then had the suspension break while powering through Turn 8, hit the tires, broke the rear wing, and spun across the alternate start/finish line next to pit entry where timed laps end during the session. With the rest of the field racing to get to that start/finish line to improve their speeds and post a final fast lap in qualifying, all those who were behind Kirkwood had their days ruined since the yellow flag was waving leading up to his car and those drivers were forced to slow.
The one lucky driver in the mix was Herta, who shot to first before the Kirkwood incident, leaving the top six as Herta, DeFrancesco, Newgarden, Grosjean, Rosenqvist and Lundgaard.
Drivers who failed to transfer were led by Graham Rahal, Rinus VeeKay, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Kirkwood, Palou and Daly.
The Firestone Fast 12 session featured Rossi as the fastest driver in the early going with a 1m00.4841s lap on primary tires and then the times started to drop with five minutes to go as Callum Ilott took first with a 1m00.0689s as most drivers pitted to install the faster alternate tires and battle for P1.
Herta was the first to strike with a 59.5391s lap and had Rossi join him with a 59.5790s as the Andretti drivers briefly held a one-two before Malukas shot through with a 59.4638s. Rossi responded with a 59.3709 to take the lead and Newgarden went to second with a 59.4614s.
Drivers who failed to transfer were led in seventh by Ilott, Rosenqvist, Ericsson, Lundgaard, Grosjean and DeFrancesco, who had his best two laps taken away after blocking teammate Herta.
In the run for pole, Rossi was first with a 59.6090s on used alternates and had Dixon almost answered in second with a 59.6402. With two minutes remaining, Newgarden hit the wall with the left-rear wheel in the same place as Kirkwood but was still fast enough to claim first with a 59.5257s lap before pitting.
The final lap was a thriller as Newgarden was on pace for pole but settled for third as Herta rocketed to the top with a 59.2698s lap and was joined by Dixon on the front row with a 59.3592s.