Herta pips Rahal to Mid-Ohio pole while RLL cars shine again

MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JULY 01: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday July 01, 2023 in Troy Township, United States of America. (Photo by Jake Galstad / LAT Images)
MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JULY 01: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday July 01, 2023 in Troy Township, United States of America. (Photo by Jake Galstad / LAT Images)

Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta scored his second straight pole position of the IndyCar season, but the talking point of qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio came from Rahal Letterman Lanigan, who saw Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard make it into the Firestone Fast Six.

Firestone Fast Six

Alex Palou Palou and Herta elected to attempt their bids for pole position using fresh primary tires, while Graham Rahal started the session on primaries but then pitted for used reds. RLL teammate Lundgaard set a banker lap on used reds – a 66.7805s – then pitted for more used reds.

Rahal produced a 66.3528s to go top, with Palou’s first shot at him falling 0.0638s short. That was enough of a gap for Kyle Kirkwood to slot into second, just 0.0165s adrift from Rahal.

Then Herta spoiled the Ohio party, shaving 0.0432s from Rahal’s time to score his second consecutive pole with a 66.3096s on his primaries an average speed of 122.589mph around the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course at Lexington, OH.

Still, RLL can be gratified to have their drivers line up second and fifth, split by Kirkwood – who has won here eight times in junior formulas – and runaway points leader Alex Palou.

Q2

Scott McLaughlin took the No. 3 Penske-Chevy straight out on used alternate tires, but his 67.1532s left him behind Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport, Christian Lundgaard of RLL and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, who set their initial times on primary tires.

Once everyone pitted for fresh reds, Graham Rahal produced a 65.9336s, although he was swiftly edged off top spot by teammate Lundgaard. The pair of them were bumped by Colton Herta’s 65.8576s but fell no further so graduated to the Firestone Fast Six.

So too did Kirkwood, Dixon and Alex Palou, but surprisingly neither Will Power nor teammate McLaughlin got through and will start from the fourth row, the highest Chevrolet-powered cars. Row five is all Swedish, Marcus Ericsson ahead of Felix Rosenqvist.

Q1 Group 2

Colton Herta produced a 66.2999s on Firestone primaries, with Scott Dixon, Will Power and Kyle Kirkwood drawing within a tenth of him before pitting for alternates.

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan was the first to set a fast lap on reds, the Dane clocking a 65.8933s, an average of 123.363mph, although he had a slight slip-up on his next attempt at a flyer.

Kirkwood put Andretti Autosport on top with a 65.7240s, closely followed by Dixon, Herta, Lundgaard, Power and Rahal. Thus RLL had all three cars into Q2.

Surprise eliminations at this stage included Romain Grosjean, 0.156s behind Rahal, and Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong was a surprising 0.567s off top spot.

Q1 Group 1

Helio Castroneves went straight out on alternates at the start of the session, in the sole Meyer Shank Racing-Honda to take part in qualifying, following Simon Pagenaud’s monstrous crash this morning.

But it was Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren-Chevrolet who first ducked under 67s, with a 66.9058s. However, a huge oversteer moment out of the Keyhole, Turn 2, turned into a spin to the inside, where he stalled and brought out the red flag. That cost him his best time, and meant he could take no further part in qualifying, so last year’s polesitter will start Sunday’s race from last.

The first segment continued with just over five minutes remaining, so everyone rejoined the track on their Firestone alternate compounds.

Alex Palou threw down a 66.0357s, and his teammate Marcus Ericsson responded with a 65.9252s to go top and immediately pitted.

Felix Rosenqvist clocked third, ahead of defending race Mid-Ohio winner Scott McLaughlin, but their respective teammates Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden missed out. As a sign of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s improvements, Jack Harvey did get through to Q2, as did David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing w/HMD.

RESULTS

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