Newgarden baffled after poor Portland qualifying

Josef Newgarden. Picture: Chris Owens

Josef Newgarden’s hopes of a third IndyCar Series title took a hit as Team Penske endured a nightmare qualifying session at Portland International Raceway.

Newgarden has won two of the past four races to charge back into contention, and entered the weekend within striking distance of points leader Pato O’Ward.

However, an “odd” lack of pace in qualifying this morning (AEST) has left him with work to do, managing a starting slot of just 18th.

That puts him well behind his title rivals O’Ward, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson – all of whom qualified inside the 10, with Palou on pole.

“We just didn’t have any pace,” Newgarden conceded.

“It wasn’t a bad lap, it just wasn’t fast, so I don’t know, I’m not sure.

“I think we have got a lot of fight, so we will fight back but I was really happy this morning [in practice], so I’m not quite sure why we didn’t have the speed there. We just didn’t.

“We’ll just have to figure it out, we’ll get together as a team and try to make the most of it and we’ll battle tomorrow for sure.”

His Penske team-mates didn’t exactly have a much better time of it, with Will Power qualifying 14th, Scott McLaughlin 15th and Simon Pagenaud down in 26th.

McLaughlin cut an animated figure after being blocked, describing the situation as a “joke” on team radio and calling out Romain Grosjean and Oliver Askew.

“Car has felt really racey this weekend, just got held up twice in qualifying on reasonable laps! Bring on tomorrow!” McLaughlin later surmised on social media.

The 110-lap Grand Prix of Portland is due to kick-off at 05:30 AEST tomorrow, and marks the third-last event of the season.

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