Herta blazes to Nashville pole position

Colton Herta. Picture: Joe Skibinski

Colton Herta converted his practice pace into pole position for the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix with a blistering lap half a second quicker than his nearest rival.

The Andretti Autosport driver made it through to the final stage of Qualifying, the Firestone Fast 6, clocking a 1:13.6835s to cement his spot on the front row.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was second on a 1:14.2327 and 0.5492s adrift with team-mate and IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou third.

“It was a good lap but what we did in Q1 really helped us there with being able to transfer on the black [hard compound] tyres,” said Herta.

“That was the biggest thing, being fast on the blacks really just made it a lot easier for the rest of the way. But great job by everybody, great job by the team.

“The car is fantastic, as you could see, what we were able to do on the black laps compared to everybody, we’re really in a league of our own, so it felt amazing.

“Good car to take into the race tomorrow too, nice and stable, so really excited.”

Group 1 running in the first round of Qualifying was stopped early as series rookie Jimmie Johnson clattered into the wall on his out lap, caving in the right front corner on his #48 Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

Once the session resumed with three minutes to go, Newgarden set the pace on a 1:16.7423s though that was quickly beaten by Palou on a 1:16.0670s.

Pato O’Ward split the leading pair with a 1:16.6654s for McLaren SP.

A late flurry of action saw Newgarden surge to the top, only to be beaten by Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport and then Palou.

At the end of Round 1, it was Palou, Rossi, O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren SP), Newgarden, and Will Power (Team Penske) who made it through to Round 2.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal missed the cut as did Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing), Santino Ferrucci (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Dalton Kellett (AJ Foyt Racing), Max Chilton (Carlin), and Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske).

Herta was among the front runners early on, eventually going quickest on a 1:14.7067s with the harder compound tyre, a time he felt would take him through to Round 2.

Dixon climbed to second place late in the piece from outside the bubble, though it was James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) who was the surprise performer as he surged to third.

Jack Harvey of Meyer Shank Racing would edge ahead of Hinchcliffe at the death with Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) and Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing) making the cut out of Group 2.

The Fast 12 was punctuated by an incident late in the piece just moments after hometown favourite Newgarden set his fastest lap of the session.

Having just gone second quickest behind Palou, Newgarden understeered into the outside wall.

Despite heavy damage to the right front corner, the #2 pilot pinned the throttle to get his car out of the way and into a run-off area to avoid bringing out a red flag.

In the end, it was Palou with a 1:14.4578s who was quickest followed by Rossi, Herta, Dixon, Rosenqvist, and Newgarden.

While Newgarden’s time was enough to advance him to the Fast 6, his time would be disallowed for bringing out a yellow flag.

That promoted Grosjean to the shootout while Harvey, Pagenaud, O’Ward, Hinchcliffe, Power, and Newgarden completed the top 12.

Palou was the first to set a representative lap time in the Fast 12, clocking a 1:15.6585s.

Grosjean would go second fastest but eclipse the time of Palou on his second lap with a 1:15.6062s.

Herta bested them both, however, setting a blistering 1:14.8530s to go eight tenths faster than Grosjean.

Rosenqvist then went to second on his final flying lap, setting a 1:15.0045s.

Herta went quicker still, setting a 1:14.2226s to put himself well clear of Rosenqvist. Rossi then climbed to second on his final attempt with a 1:14.8537s.

Despite having a handy margin over the field, Herta continued to lower his best time, his final effort a 1:13.6835s.

Having been quiet throughout the session, Dixon’s last flying lap took him to second place while team-mate Palou put a lap together at the death to go third.

In the end, Rossi, Rosenqvist, and Grosjean completed the top six.

The inaugural 80-lap Music City Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow at 07:30 AEST.

Results: Music City Grand Prix, Qualifying

Pos Num Driver Time
1 26 Colton Herta 01:13.6835
2 9 Scott Dixon 01:14.2327
3 10 Alex Palou 01:14.6316
4 27 Alexander Rossi 01:14.6646
5 7 Felix Rosenqvist 01:15.0045
6 51 Romain Grosjean 01:15.3980
7 60 Jack Harvey 01:15.1309
8 22 Simon Pagenaud 01:15.1354
9 5 Pato O’Ward 01:15.1914
10 29 James Hinchcliffe 01:15.3255
11 12 Will Power 01:15.5016
12 2 Josef Newgarden 01:15.5062
13 15 Graham Rahal 01:16.1097
14 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 01:15.4984
15 6 Helio Castroneves 01:16.3479
16 14 Sebastien Bourdais 01:15.6055
17 45 Santino Ferrucci 01:16.4647
18 8 Marcus Ericsson 01:15.6379
19 4 Dalton Kellett 01:17.1516
20 20 Conor Daly 01:15.6685
21 59 Max Chilton 01:17.5553
22 21 Rinus VeeKay 01:15.7029
23 3 Scott McLaughlin 01:18.1899
24 30 Takuma Sato 01:15.8503
25 48 Jimmie Johnson No Time
26 18 Ed Jones 01:15.8770
27 52 Cody Ware 01:18.0928

Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section

Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]