By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden (1:45.5191) captured the pole for Saturday’s REV Group Grand Prix Race at Road America, becoming the first man to win two NTT P1 Pole Awards this season.
Newgarden credits the pole to not just his No. 1 Team Penske crew for the amazing turnaround, but also his good luck charm that is known as the PPG livery.
“I’m lucky today because I’m driving the PPG car. Every time we run this car, we seem to have luck. Whether it’s trying to get the pole or trying to win the race, so it was definitely a good omen,” said Newgarden.
“The boys worked really hard trying to turn around from the (Indy) GP. It’s been a fast day and the guys have to be on it with their decision making. Compared to practice, I think we tried to get a little bit cheeky with our tire usage and we were a little off page with the other people. We tried figuring out the pieces that were good and put it back on the car. It worked out really well, so we now have to worry about the race car.”
Starting alongside Newgarden will be Jack Harvey, who once again thought he had the pole locked up, only for a Penske competitor pulling one last punch in qualifying.
“All we could worry about is trying to be the quickest of our group as possible,” Harvey on his qualifying mindset. “I think it’s pretty fair to say that Group 2 is usually a tiny bit quicker.”
Although the 23-car grid was split into two groups, there’s some differences as the format consists of just a single round per group. No top-six advancing into Round 2 nor Firestone Fast Six, just 14 minutes of pushing their cars to the absolute limit at the 4.014-mile circuit.
In Group 1, it was a wild final minutes as people would’ve expected during INDYCAR qualifying. Several drivers such as Felix Rosenqvist, Rinus VeeKay and Graham Rahal took turns of leading the group leader board. Much like practice, one man took top honors at the last second and that was Harvey, who ended up clocking in with a time of 1:45.7290 and will receive a championship point for being the quickest of his group.
The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Alex Palou and Santino Ferrucci had issues during their qualifying run as both competitors received a pit lane violation penalty. They’ll be rolling off sixth and 14th respectively.
Minutes later, it was Group 2’s turn to make a statement in their 14-minute session. This group featured the big names as far as combined total of NTT P1 Pole Awards are concerned. The 12 drivers combined for a grand total of 131 poles while Group 1 only has 10 total. Not only that, Group 2 are 145-9 in group qualifying competition.
With four minutes remaining, points leader Scott Dixon got sideways in Turn 14 which cost him a some time to dethrone Ryan Hunter-Reay who had a time of 1:46.6396 up to that point, but also take the pole away from Harvey.
Hunter-Reay put the pedal on the floor and gave it his all to rival Harvey’s time, but could only muster a 1:46.0799 with two minutes left. Dixon would have a better response with a 1:45.9324, but it still wasn’t enough to snatch the pole from Harvey. He’ll start ninth as he’s gunning for a 3-0 start to his 2020 championship trail.
Hunter-Reay was able to put on a much better time, clocking in at 1:45.6563 to make the Meyer Shank Racing driver a bridesmaid once again. The time on top was short lived as Newgarden ended up 0.1372 seconds faster than Hunter-Reay (starting third) to score his 10th career pole and earn valuable championship points.
Harvey commented that momentum building is key as he’ll hope that the 55-lap race will lead to an even better result to validate its strong straight line speed on his Honda.
“It’s following on Indy with a great result for everybody on Meyer Shank Racing,” said Harvey. “To see the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda at the front just makes all the hard effort and hard work that we put in just so worth it.”
Live coverage of today’s first leg of the Road America doubleheader begins at 5:00 p.m. EST on NBCSN. Alexander Rossi, who’ll have some work to do from the 11th position, is the defending race winner of the 55-lap contest.
2020 REV Group Grand Prix Race No. 1 Starting Lineup
- (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:45.5191 (136.946 mph)
- (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:45.7290 (136.674)
- (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:45.6563 (136.768)
- (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:45.7593 (136.635)
- (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:45.8244 (136.551)
- (18) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 1:45.7696 (136.621)
- (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:45.8609 (136.504)
- (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 1:45.8469 (136.522)
- (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:45.9324 (136.412)
- (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:45.9888 (136.339)
- (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:46.1365 (136.149)
- (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:46.0356 (136.279)
- (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:46.2980 (135.942)
- (55) Alex Palou, Honda, 1:46.1260 (136.163)
- (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:46.5368 (135.638)
- (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:46.1301 (136.157)
- (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:46.7090 (135.419)
- (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:46.3878 (135.828)
- (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:46.8114 (135.289)
- (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:46.4707 (135.722)
- (7) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 1:47.1133 (134.908)
- (4) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:47.6862 (134.190)
- (14) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 1:47.5761 (134.327)