O’Ward edges out Power to Indianapolis pole

Pato O’Ward claimed his third pole position. Picture: James Black

Pato O’Ward has edged out Will Power to pole position by a mere 0.0067s at the road course-configured Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The McLaren SP driver clocked a 1:10.7147s, cementing pole position for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix.

It marks the third occasion O’Ward will start from pole position after topping qualifying at the season-opener at Barber Motorsports Park and at the Belle Isle Street Circuit.

While O’Ward is yet to convert either of those into a win, the 22-year-old believes this weekend’s race will be a turning point in his title chase.

“I wanted to make sure that this was a turning point,” said O’Ward, who lies third in the standings.

“We’ve had a very tough last three races and we’re ready to get back into victory lane.

“This is the first step to that and tomorrow we have a job to finish and just continue it on man.

“It’s still five races to go. A lot can happen, but this is definitely on the right track.

“Thanks to our test in Portland we found a few things that I knew were going to help us here.

“I’ve never been so excited to race here around the Indy road course. Since Practice 1, I said, ‘man, we’re going to get some good points this weekend’.

Initially, it was Power (Team Penske) who topped proceedings in Group 1 on a 1:10.9988s followed by Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing) who sat 0.1812s in arrears.

Conor Daly (Ed Carpenter Racing) was third while Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) was fourth.

Rinus VeeKay’s session was punctuated by an off-track moment at the final corner before the timing line.

While the 20-year-old complained of a loose car, the Ed Carpenter Racing driver snuck through in the end, setting the fourth fastest time behind Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta.

Herta’s team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to make it through to the Fast 12 in seventh followed by Sebastien Bourdais (AJ Foyt Enterprise), Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Max Chilton (Carlin), and then Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske).

McLaughlin ended the session in 11th – cementing him 21st on the grid – clocking a 1:11.6676s which put him 0.6688s off the chart-topping time set by Power.

Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing), RC Enerson (Top Gun Racing), and Cody Ware (Rick Ware Racing) rounded out Group 1.

Dale Coyne Racing duo Romain Grosjean and Ed Jones set the pace initially in Group 2, though they were soon split by O’Ward.

A late flurry of action saw Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) go quickest only to be beaten by Grosjean and then Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport).

Chip Ganassi Racing duo Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon broke the top six but soon found themselves on the outside looking in.

At the session’s end, it was Rossi who led standout Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing), Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren), Grosjean, and O’Ward.

Hustling to crack the top six, Dixon spun out of the final corner before the timing line and brought out the yellow flag.

That saw the six-time series winner stripped of his fastest time, dropping him from ninth to second-last.

Ericsson, who was sixth, was given a reprieve when Rosenqivst’s time that got him into the Fast 12 was disallowed having set it under yellow flag conditions.

Newgarden was the first of those knocked out, followed by Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Jones, James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), Jimmie Johnson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Dixon, and Dalton Kellett (AJ Foyt Enterprises).

While Newgarden’s time would put him 14th on the timesheets, a six-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change will drop him to 20th.

Lundgaard set the pace in the Fast 12 on his first lap, clocking a 1:11.7329s followed by Power, VeeKay, Palou and Herta.

VeeKay eclipsed the benchmark on a 1:11.5901 while Daly climbed to fourth.

With one and a half minutes remaining the times began to tumble. First, it was Grosjean who shot to the top on a 1:11.5901s.

Lundgaard improved his marker too, going within 0.0690s of the leading Frenchman.

Rossi briefly jumped to the top but was bested by Palou.

Grosjean continued to improve too on a 1:10.7418s, going quickest once more with Lundgaard trailing him by just 0.0015s.

However, it was O’Ward who came up trumps on 1:10.7147s, surging from 10th to first with his last effort.

Power climbed up the order too, launching from eighth to second and falling just 0.0067s shy of the pole position time.

Grosjean was third with Lundgaard fourth, Herta fifth and Palou sixth. The Fast 12 was rounded out by Harvey, Daly, VeeKay, Rossi, Ericsson, and Pagenaud.

The Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow morning at 02:30 AEST.

Results: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix Qualifying

Pos Num Driver Time Session
1 5 Pato O’Ward 01:10.7147 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
2 12 Will Power 01:10.7214 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
3 51 Romain Grosjean (R) 01:10.7418 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
4 45 Christian Lundgaard (R) 01:10.7433 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
5 26 Colton Herta 01:10.7631 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
6 10 Alex Palou 01:10.8290 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
7 60 Jack Harvey 01:10.8875 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8 20 Conor Daly 01:10.9532 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9 21 Rinus VeeKay 01:11.0208 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10 27 Alexander Rossi 01:11.0240 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
11 8 Marcus Ericsson 01:11.0342 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12 22 Simon Pagenaud 01:11.1346 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 01:11.5084 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 2 Josef Newgarden 01:11.3623 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15 14 Sebastien Bourdais 01:11.5504 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16 30 Takuma Sato 01:11.4174 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17 15 Graham Rahal 01:11.5583 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18 18 Ed Jones 01:11.4360 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19 59 Max Chilton 01:11.5739 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20 7 Felix Rosenqvist 01:11.5340 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21 3 Scott McLaughlin (R) 01:11.6676 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
22 48 Jimmie Johnson (R) 01:11.8624 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
23 6 Helio Castroneves 01:11.7319 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
24 29 James Hinchcliffe 01:12.0813 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
25 75 RC Enerson (R) 01:12.3344 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
26 9 Scott Dixon 01:12.2660 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
27 52 Cody Ware (R) 01:13.7572 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
28 4 Dalton Kellett 01:12.5494 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

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