By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
NASHVILLE – Qualifying for the Inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville was cruel hearted for both Jimmie Johnson and Josef Newgarden.
Both competitors will now have their work cut out for after crashing during separate sessions Saturday. Demoralizing their progress on the rigorous 2.17-mile street course.
Not even two minutes into Group 1 qualifying, Johnson smashed the Turn 10 wall. A corner that’s been a trouble spot for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion all day.
During practice earlier in the day, Johnson went wide and barely avoided hitting the wall. With a severely damaged right front, Johnson’s bid of having a solid qualifying run was over and will roll off 25th out of the 27-car field.
Later in qualifying, hometown hero Newgarden was sixth fastest in second round qualifying. All he needed to do is make it through the closing minutes and have a chance of making the Firestone Fast Six.
Then, Turn 11 happened which resulted him crashing into the barriers. He brought his wounded No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet to a rest in the Turn 1 runoff area. When he got out of the car, the crowd cheered that he was okay but the morale of Team Penske was down.
Newgarden struggled getting around the corner which led to his accident and certainly paid the price. Consequently, the crash knocked him out of the Fast Six and promoted Romain Grosjean into the final round of qualifying.
“I just wrecked. Disappointing,” said Newgarden. “Not what I wanted to do but I was trying to make up the deficit from yesterday and today.”
While his spirits were damped, Newgarden is pumped for tomorrow’s race. He’ll just have to work his way from the 12th starting position after the penalty.
“You can’t wreck and not get penalized. That’s on me. That’s how it works,” said Newgarden. “You take a swing at a new track like this. It’s either right on or a little off. We’ve worked really hard and tried to be as prepared as possible. I think we’ve gotten some more performance back. Not sure what exactly what I’m going to need, but I feel like we’re a lot closer. I just overstepped.”
Both competitors will have a warmup (1:00 p.m. on Peacock) and then the big 80-lap race at 5:30 p.m. ET that’ll air live on NBCSN. Colton Herta will lead the field to the green flag.