Pumped up Newgarden takes Long Beach pole

Josef Newgarden. Picture: Chris Jones

Josef Newgarden has kept himself in the IndyCar Series title fight by clinching pole position for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Team Penske star had endured a frustrating run in recent qualifying sessions, starting outside the top 15 at both Portland and Laguna Seca.

But at Long Beach, he put himself in the best possible position as title rivals Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward were unlucky to be knocked out before the Fast Six.

There was controversy as Will Power clipped the wall in the dying stages of the top 12 session and was forced to stop his #12 on-track at Turn 10, triggering local yellow flags.

Championship leader Palou subsequently slowed, denying him the chance to improve.

O’Ward meanwhile held sixth at the time, only for Felix Rosenqvist, James Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones to lob personal-best laps, bumping the Mexican out.

After an investigatory period, officials confirmed O’Ward would not partake in the Fast Six, leaving him to line up eighth for tomorrow’s race, directly ahead of Palou in 10th.

Palou can put his maiden series crown beyond doubt simply by finishing the 85-lap race in 11th or better.

For Power, it was his second incident in a troubled qualifying, having clipped the crashed Meyer Shank Racing entry of Jack Harvey at the end of the opening segment.

Power’s crew did a remarkable job to repair the damaged rear-end of the Team Penske car, but the Australian was ultimately unable to qualifying higher than 12th.

Making it through to the Fast Six, in order, was Romain Grosjean, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagneaud, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Rosenqvist.

Castroneves, who will make his full-time return to the category next year via Meyer Shank Racing, held sway for much of the shootout for pole position.

However, Newgarden, needing every point he can get to have a chance of his third title, saved his best for last with a stunning 1:08.2241s – in doing so, reducing his deficit to series leader Palou to 47 points by taking the bonus point that comes with pole position.

Dixon would improve to nab a front-row start, albeit more than two tenths off the #2 driver.

Former team-mates Castroneves and Pagenaud will share the second row, ahead of Rosenqvist and Grosjean.

Further back, Scott McLaughlin will start 13th in the 28-car field, putting him on the seventh row alongside practice pace-setter Colton Herta.

A maximum of 53 points remain available – 50 for the win, plus bonus points (one for leading a lap, two for most laps led).

Palou is 35 clear of O’Ward, with Newgarden a further 12 back.

McLaughlin meanwhile leads Grosjean by 20 points in the squabble for Rookie of the Year honours.

The Grand Prix of Long Beach is due to kick off at 05:30 (AEST) tomorrow.

Starting grid: Grand Prix of Long Beach

Driver Team Time Session
1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske 1:08.2241 Fast Six
2 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 1:08.4422 Fast Six
3 Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing 1:08.4827 Fast Six
4 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske 1:08.6514 Fast Six
5 Felix Rosenqvist McLaren SP 1:08.7461 Fast Six
6 Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing 1:08.7577 Fast Six
7 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:08.7143 Fast 12
8 Pato O’Ward McLaren SP 1:08.8339 Fast 12
9 Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan 1:08.8797 Fast 12
10 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing 1:08.9464 Fast 12
11 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 1:09.1330 Fast 12
12 Will Power Team Penske 1:09.2279 Fast 12
13 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske 1:08.8611 Round 1 (Group 1)
14 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport 1:09.1094 Round 1 (Group 2)
15 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport 1:08.9946 Round 1 (Group 1)
16 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:09.3814 Round 1 (Group 2)
17 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing 1:09.1368 Round 1 (Group 1)
18 Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:09.4360 Round 1 (Group 2)
19 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:09.3998 Round 1 (Group 1)
20 Charlie Kimball A. J. Foyt Enterprises 1:09.6793 Round 1 (Group 2)
21 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing 1:09.5816 Round 1 (Group 1)
22 Sebastien Bourdais A. J. Foyt Enterprises 1:09.7022 Round 1 (Group 2)
23 Max Chilton Carlin 1:09.7525 Round 1 (Group 1)
24 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing 1:09.7602 Round 1 (Group 2)
25 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing 1:10.4664 Round 1 (Group 1)
26 Dalton Kellett A. J. Foyt Enterprises 1:09.9144 Round 1 (Group 2)
27 Jimmie Johnson Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.5127 Round 1 (Group 1)
28 Oliver Askew Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:10.0178 Round 1 (Group 2)

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