By David Malsher-Lopez | Motorsport.com
Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean was fastest initially around the 17-turn 2.3-mile track with a 1m06.0289s, 0.0341s ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren, but on fresher (but still used) reds, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin displaced him, then O’Ward did the same.
Impressively the top four were covered by just 0.112s, as O’Ward was a hair quicker than McLaughlin, while Scott Dixon made it two Ganassi cars in the top five, ahead of the impressive Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan, just 0.32s from the top spot.
It is the second pole of the season for Grosjean, and the fifth of his IndyCar career.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon immediately hit the track on used alternates rather than the primaries that everyone else ran for their banker laps, and Dixon landed a 1m06.3498s to go top, although compatriot Scott McLaughlin was only 0.0204s adrift on the harder compound tires, before everyone dived into pitlane for new alternates.
Kyle Kirkwood spun on cold tires exiting the pits and kissed the dirt in his 360deg recovery. Then the times started tumbling at the top, with Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and finally Romain Grosjean all taking turns at the top.
That trio made it through, although split by McLaughlin who bumped teammate Josef Newgarden out of the Fast Six. The other Penske, Will Power’s, was already eliminated with a couple of incidents, at Turns 5 and 13, and he also reported his car was down around 0.15s due to his Chevrolet approaching the end of its life.
This surprise elimination of two Penskes and two McLarens meant there was room for Christian Lundgaard to give the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team the lift it needed by getting into Fast Six.
Q1 Group 1
Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing initially went to the top of the times since he decided to go straight out on Firestone’s alternates, but his best effort was eclipsed by Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon on the harder primaries. Grosjean’s benchmark was 1m06.2666, but Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden’s first effort on the softer rubber was 1m05.8743s. Last year’s polesitter Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing and then Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing came close to deposing him, but then Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon did the job.
Newgarden responded though, with a 1m05.5883s, and that kept him top by a tenth ahead of Grosjean, whose final effort bumped points leader Marcus Ericsson out of the top six. Rossi’s Arrow McLaren claimed third ahead of Long Beach winner Kyle Kirkwood and Scott Dixon. VeeKay clung on to sixth to graduate to Q2.