Image by Levitt/LAT
Rookie NTT IndyCar Series driver Felix Rosenqvist stunned his rivals by capturing pole position ahead of many of the favorites, including his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. The Swede took the No. 10 entry to the front by a slim margin (1m8.2785s) over Dixon (+0.0194s) to give CGR and engine partner Honda a 1-2 start.
“My last lap was the fastest and that’s all you ever want in qualifying,” said Rosenqvist. “It was tricky today because it took a while for the tires to come in because it was so cold, and it was all about timing it just right. I’ve got a good car, and so does Scott.
“My next-to-last lap would have been sixth, so you know how loose it was. And I like the fact I’m starting next to him going into Turn 1 tomorrow.”
The second-best story of the day was Jack Harvey and his performance for Meyer Shank. The Brit qualified third quickest and showed that running every race has its benefits in terms of consistency.
“I really feel like today, for the first time, I belong here,” said Shank. “I mean, we’ve been quick, but running all the time has really helped this whole team, and today it showed. I’m proud of Jack and all these guys.”
Rookie Colton Herta continued to impress by posting the fourth-fastest lap in his Harding Steinbrenner Honda, and former Indy Lights champ Ed Jones did a nice job for Ed Carpenter and posted the fifth-best lap of the 22 competitors.
But Will Power, a three-time winner of this event, lines up sixth and will be a handful at the green flag.
“We can win from sixth — it will be tough, but if it rains it’s going to be a wild one,” said the 2018 Indy 500 winner.
Saturday’s forecast calls for rain beginning at 3 o’clock – a half hour before the green flag.
Qualifying for the Indy GP contained a few shocks right out of the gate. Nine-hundredths of a second separated Team Penske’s championship leader Josef Newgarden, teammate Helio Castroneves, and Andretti’s Alexander Rossi from transferring into the Fast 12. The trio were also more than a half-second behind the best lap set in the session, which speaks to the bigger chassis setup questions facing the IndyCar frontrunners.
“The car feels pretty good; I’m pretty happy with the car. We’re all kind of back there, for some reason,” Newgarden said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what we’re missing.”
In the next round, more surprises followed as Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is feeling ill, and Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s James Hinchcliffe failed to transfer. Altogether, none of Andretti Autosport’s four drivers were able to crack the Fast 12.
Moving into the next round to cut the Fast 12 down to the Fast Six, an intense battle in the final laps saw Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, Arrow SPM’s Marcus Ericsson, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Sebastien Bourdais, and RLL’s Takuma Sato miss the cut by a collective 0.1147 seconds. Spencer Pigot was 12th.
“The competition is amazing,” Pagenaud said. “I gave it everything I had. It’s the best I could have done.”
Chip Ganassi Racing, Felix Rosenqvist, Indy GP, IndyCar
The 2019 season marks Marshall Pruett’s 33rd year working in the sport. In his role today for RACER, Pruett covers open-wheel and sports car racing as a writer, reporter, photographer, and filmmaker. In his previous career, he served as a mechanic, engineer, and team manager in a variety of series, including IndyCar, IMSA, and World Challenge.