ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden’s cagey tire strategy paid off Saturday with the NTT P1 Award for the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America.
Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden was the only driver in the Firestone Fast Six who elected to use new Firestone primary “black” tires for the entire final round of qualifying instead of used primary tires or the grippier, but less durable Firestone alternate “red” tires. That paid off with a best lap of 1 minute, 46.0186 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet on the 14-turn, 4.014-mile course.
It was the second pole of the season and second straight for Newgarden, who finished second in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit last Sunday after winning the NTT P1 Award. Newgarden, from Nashville, Tennessee, earned his 13th career NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole after leading the morning practice and learning an important lesson for the three-round qualifying session.
“We knew this morning this was what we were going to do,” Newgarden said. “I didn’t know where everyone else was at, but this was my plan in the morning. Everybody was on board with it. Just happy to see it work out. I’m a little surprised more didn’t do that. You need to mix it up. It was going to be hard to make used tires work.”
Colton Herta will join Newgarden on the front row in the 55-lap race Sunday after qualifying second at 1:46.2616 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Live coverage of the race starts at noon (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. It’s the ninth of 16 races this season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Jack Harvey will start third after a best lap of 1:46.7206 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda. 2014 series champion Will Power will join Harvey on the second row after qualifying fourth at 1:46.8237 in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Alex Palou, just one point behind championship leader Pato O’Ward, will start fifth after a best lap of 1:46.8633 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Simon Pagenaud was one of three Team Penske drivers in the Firestone Fast Six and will start sixth at 1:47.1274 in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.
O’Ward will need to charge from almost midway through the field if he wants to earn his third victory this season in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward was eliminated after the second round of qualifying and will start 10th after a best lap of 1.46.1069.
“We just haven’t found the right balance since practice one,” O’Ward said. “We were OK with the cooler temperatures this morning, but any time it gets a little bit warmer, we’re not in the window.”
Another title contender, six-time and reigning series champion Scott Dixon, will need to work even harder than O’Ward to race to the front Sunday. Dixon will start 13th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda after he was eliminated in the first round of qualifying. Dixon is third in the championship, 36 points behind O’Ward.
Dixon lost about 15 minutes of track time in the morning practice due to repairs of his chassis undertray in the pits after he ran over debris in the fast, sweeping Carousel corner.
“It’s frustrating with how compact these weekends are, and if you lose any kind of sequence of it, the roll-on effect is pretty big,” Dixon said. “It is what it is; you can’t do anything about it. It was something on the track, something I couldn’t avoid in a corner that I couldn’t really avoid.”