By David Morgan, Associate Editor
MADISON, Ill. – Josef Newgarden’s hot streak entering the weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway keeps on rolling as the championship points leader in the NTT IndyCar Series will start from pole for Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
Rolling off last in the qualifying order, Newgarden laid down a two-lap average of 186.508 mph, knocking Sebastien Bourdais off the provisional pole and taking it for himself. The pole is his second straight and third of the 2019 season.
Newgarden is no stranger to success at Gateway, winning the 2017 event and finishing seventh in this race one year ago.
“When you roll off with a car that is just fast and it feels comfortable, you don’t have to do too much to make it more comfy, it gives you a lot of confidence, and I can’t remember the last time — probably Iowa, we had a really good car like that, too,” Newgarden said.
“Right off the truck it was just perfect. I mean, it was like right on. And it’s hard to do that. It’s really, really hard to do that. You try every weekend to make that happen, and it’s like maybe once or twice out of the year you go, okay, we don’t have to do much there.”
While starting on pole will place Newgarden in prime real estate when the green flag drops, the driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet was quick to note that while speed in qualifying helps, it won’t necessarily translate to a car worthy enough to take home the victory after swapping over to race trim.
“The only problem is I don’t know how that’s going to translate to the race,” he said. “By myself it was fine, qualifying was fine, but in traffic I kind of hope it’s the same thing.
“We need to go through the race simulation and then see where we really end up. But I feel pretty confident that the PPG car is going to be strong, and Chevy has obviously done their homework and given us a great package.”
Despite falling short of his first pole of the season, Bourdais was still his humorous self, joking that rookie teammate Santino Ferrucci jinxed his pole run.
“My teammate jinxed it,” Bourdais said with a grin. “He just told me before the last one, that pole will be yours, and I told him, man, you just jinxed it.
“Massive commitment by the team. Obviously, we came, tested here last year and felt like we had a really good car. Unfortunately, couldn’t put it to use at all because we got wiped in qualifying, and I didn’t make it past Turn 2 in the race, so that was a very short weekend for us, very disappointing.
“We unloaded quick, as we were hoping, and yeah, really worked out very well for us in qualifying for both cars. Santino did a great job and gave me good feedback that we definitely were in the window as far as balance was concerned, and yeah, just kind of went for it, and really happy with the result.”
Newgarden’s Team Penske teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud will start third and fourth, respectively, followed by Takuma Sato, Ferrucci, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Felix Rosenqvist to round out the top-10 starters.
Alexander Rossi, who currently sits second in points, will roll off 11th.
“We just missed it today,” Rossi quipped after his qualifying run was complete.