Pole position for the Portland Grand Prix would be settled between the Team Penske trio of Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin, the lone championship representative from Chip Ganassi Racing with Alex Palou, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s speedy rookie Christian Lundgaard.
Firing into the intense final round of qualifying, it was McLaughlin who shot to the top with a monster lap of 58.2349s to capture his third pole of the season. It was a Penske 1-2-3 with Newgarden in second (+0.0780s) and Will Power in third (+0.1095s).
“Credit to everyone at Team Penske,” McLaughlin said. “We weren’t great here last year but we’ve come back here with three hotrods. We’re all pushing each other – Will, Josef and myself. To get pole is obviously a great thing. The Freightliner Chevy feels good. The Chevy power is great. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Newgarden had the pace to earn pole, but an error on his last lap took the extra point out of play.
“I just messed it up, plain and simple,” he said. “I whiffed in Turn 7 on my quick lap and probably dropped two or three tenths.”
With Newgarden’s six-spot grid penalty for making a premature engine change, he’ll line up eighth, promoting his championship-leading teammate Power to the front row.
After the Penske drivers, Lundgaard (+0.2133s), Palou (+0.2726s) and O’Ward (+0.3741s) completed the group.
Once Newgarden’s penalty is applied, the revised starting lineup will feature a top seven of McLaughlin, Power, Lundgaard, Palou, O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Colton Herta in front of the two-time series champion.
The opening round of qualifying saw Newgarden post the fastest lap and Colton Herta hit the wall on the inside of Turn 1 and lose time as his Andretti Autosport team replaced the bent right-front steering arm. Having fallen out of the top six, he returned to post one flying lap and jumped to fifth.
Kyle Kirkwood (P13) was on the losing end of Herta’s flying lap and was knocked out of the top six transfer spots. He was followed on the outside looking in by Romain Grosjean (P15), Jack Harvey (P17), Simon Pagenaud (P19), Helio Castroneves (P21) and Jimmie Johnson (P23).
The second half of the opening round was led by Christian Lundgaard, and behind him, the big shocks came with the Ganassi squad sending just one of its three title contenders through to the Fast 12. On the wrong side of the cut line we had Callum Ilott (P14), Scott Dixon (P16), Marcus Ericsson (P18), Conor Daly (P20), Takuma Sato (P22), Devlin DeFrancesco (P24), and Dalton Kellett (P25).
Entering the Firestone Fast 12, it was a colling of the two fastest drivers from the previous rounds as Newgarden led Lundgaard. Those who were finished and would not transfer to the Fast Six were led by Felix Rosenqvist (P7), Colton Herta (P8), Alexander Rossi (P9), David Malukas (P10), Graham Rahal (P11) and Rinus VeeKay (P12).
UP NEXT: Final Practice, 4:15 p.m. PT