Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

O’Ward and Herta Lock Front Row for Second Race at Road America

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The front row for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America saw a flashback to 2018 as Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta, the top-two points finishers in Indy Lights that year, will lead the field to the green flag for the second 55-lap race.

O’Ward one upped his former Indy Lights teammate and rival with a time of 1:44.8971 (137.758 mph), just 0.2790 seconds quicker than Herta’s time to capture his maiden NTT P1 Pole Award and the first under the Arrow McLaren SP banner.

The 2018 Indy Lights champion said the goal going into the race is simple, capture his maiden NTT IndyCar Series victory.

“We got it together. Yesterday in qualifying, we had a few issues and we just needed that little extra to really just put a lap together. Today we were pushing for this, man. We’re here to win. We’re not here to be qualifying 8th or tenth. We want to win,” said O’Ward.

“There’s so much work that goes into these cars. I can’t thank the Arrow McLaren SP crew enough. They’ve been working their asses off during the quarantine and every single race weekend; and this means a lot to me. Team Chevy has been a huge support for our team. It’s my first INDYCAR pole, and let’s go man! I want to win this thing. I want a race win!”

Unlike Saturday, it’s Group 1 that had the stacked lineup with a combined total of 132 poles compared to 10 in Group 2. Also, it didn’t took terribly long for someone to go below 1 minute and 46 seconds as Takuma Sato had the early advantage with a time of 1:45.7173 past with five minutes left in the group session.

Sato spun in Turn 14 at the conclusion of Group 2 qualifying yesterday. This time it was a much cleaner session, but his time on top ended when Scott Dixon eclipsed him with 10 seconds remaining.

In the end, it was last year’s pole sitter Colton Herta who became the first guy to qualify under 1 minute and 45 seconds this weekend as his No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda timed in at a blazing 1:44.9250, collecting a bonus point in the championship trail.

Like yesterday, Dixon will have some work to do if he wants to join Sebastien Bourdais (2006) and A.J. Foyt (1964) to start the year 4-0 as he’ll start sixth. Three spots better than the day before.

Yesterday’s pole sitter Josef Newgarden did have a moment in the sun in P1 before Ryan Hunter-Reay and ultimately Herta had quicker times. When it was all set and done, the defending champion will start a rather disappointing 14th.

The first half of Group 2 qualifying saw a mix bag of drivers one upping each other with Charlie Kimball’s 1:46.0072 being the standard bearer. Nowhere near Herta’s time, but like always, some drivers saved their best for last and it was O’Ward who capture the bonus point and the NTT P1 Pole Award.

When asked about starting alongside Herta, O’Ward was excited to say the least as the average age of the front row is 20.7 years, the youngest in history.

“What about that? I mean, I think we’re in for a good race,” said O’Ward. “So yeah, I’m excited. I’m ecstatic!

Santino Ferrucci lost it in Turn 13 after clipping the grass, but got his car back going without halting the action. It proved to be the only incident during the morning fight for the pole and will roll off 11th.

Meanwhile, Ferrucci’s teammate Alex Palou backed up his maiden INDYCAR podium with the third fastest time to cap off a session defined by the youth.

Conor Daly will roll off 20th out of the 23 car grid. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver was dealing with some pain on his right shoulder following a crash into the Turn 7 tire barriers after a battle between O’Ward went awry. Nonetheless, the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet were able to keep their heads up and will look for a better outing Sunday.

Live coverage of the second and final leg of the Road America doubleheader begins at Noon EST on NBC.

2020 REV Group Grand Prix Race No. 2 Qualifying Results

  1. (5) Pato O’Ward, 1:44.8791
  2. (88) Colton Herta, 1:44.9250
  3. (55) Alex Palou, 1:44.9192
  4. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1:45.1534
  5. (15) Graham Rahal, 1:45.0324
  6. (9) Scott Dixon, 1:45.2674
  7. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, 1:45.1487
  8. (12) Will Power, 1:45.2995
  9. (60) Jack Harvey, 1:45.5094
  10. (27) Alexander Rossi, 1:45.3722
  11. (18) Santino Ferrucci, 1:45.5676
  12. (30) Takuma Sato, 1:45.4320
  13. (4) Charlie Kimball, 1:45.8344
  14. (1) Josef Newgarden, 1:45.4605
  15. (21) Rinus VeeKay, 1:46.0330
  16. (8) Marcus Ericsson, 1:45.7852
  17. (26) Zach Veach, 1:46.1816
  18. (7) Oliver Askew, 1:46.0735
  19. (98) Marco Andretti, 1:46.2213
  20. (20) Conor Daly, 1:46.4850
  21. (59) Max Chilton, 1:46.6091
  22. (22) Simon Pagenaud, 1:46.5734
  23. (14) Dalton Kellett, 1:47.3130

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.