Pumped up Newgarden takes Long Beach pole
Sunday 26th September, 2021 - 6:53am
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
|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)|