Herta surges to Road America IndyCar pole

ROAD AMERICA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JUNE 16: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Road America on Friday June 16, 2023 in Elkhart Lake, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)
ROAD AMERICA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JUNE 16: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Road America on Friday June 16, 2023 in Elkhart Lake, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)

Dario Franchitti’s Road America lap record was under fire until the waning moments of Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series qualifying session, but in the end, the Scot’s 1m39.866s standard from 2000 was preserved despite the best efforts of polesitter Colton Herta whose 1m40.1945s tour was just 0.330s shy of becoming the circuit’s new record.

Herta’s run in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda was shadowed by front-row starter Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevy who produced a 1m40.3643s run to claim second ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou (1m40.4930s), a spinning Josef Newgarden from Team Penske (1m40.9530s), Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi (1m41.1854s), and Andretti’s Kyle Kirkwood in sixth.

Kirkwood was third fastest in the Firestone Fast 12 session that separated the top and bottom six to vie for pole, but the Long Beach race winner lost an engine at the end of the session and was unable to participate in the Fast Six. His Honda motor was due to be changed after Sunday, but a fresh unit will be installed tonight.

“First off, it’s good to be back in here,” Herta said after taking his 10th career pole and first of 2023. “I forgot what a media center looked like; I’ve been qualifying so poorly. It feels nice to be back on form. Our qualifyings have been kind of lackluster the last few weekends. Luckily, we put it all together today and ended up on the pole. Super happy. The car was great.”

Take a lap around @roadamerica with your NTT P1 Award winner @ColtonHerta. #INDYCAR // #SonsioGP pic.twitter.com/pOYD0qsba4

— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 17, 2023

For O’Ward, lining up next to his longtime friend and rival and former teammate was a nice addition to Saturday’s results.

“It hasn’t just been four years against each other in IndyCar, but it has been ever since, like, 2009-ish,” O’Ward said. “It’s basically been a whole journey. We got led to the same place in extremely different paths. But ultimately that’s the beauty of it, right? It’s really on different experiences. He’s gotten to drive some really cool cars, I haven’t. I got a chance to drive some cool cars, and he hasn’t. We’ve been able to be teammates in ’18 in Indy Lights. We made the jump here. We won Daytona together. We’ve had a real lot of nice memories. I feel like the respect that we both have for each other is showed upon on track when we’re around each other.”

IndyCar qualifying recap with surprise standout Santino Ferrucci

The Bird is the word for Will Power after a bad day at Road America

Graham Rahal closing in on Honda IndyCar start record

After the top six, A.J. Foyt Racing starred in qualifying with rookie Benjamin Pedersen and teammate Santino Ferrucci capturing 10th and 11th. Andretti’s Devlin DeFrancesco was another nice surprise, making the fast 12 and holding 12th into the race.

Among those who left the track in various stages of frustration, Andretti’s Romain Grosjean’s streak of forgettable outcomes continued as a major off in Turn 1 sent his car flying; he’d settle for 19th, one spot ahead of Scott McLaughlin, whose weekend has featured a surprising lack of pace.

His Penske teammate Will Power was the angriest of all, venting a laundry list of criticisms to the TV camera after qualifying 22nd, one position in front of his least favorite driver on the day, Scott Dixon, who caused the morning practice crash that set their weekends spiraling downward.

The opening round of knockout qualifying pitted 13 drivers against each other to earn six transfer spots.

Colton Herta, Benjamin Pedersen, Devlin DeFrancesco, Josef Newgarden, Kyle Kirkwood, and Santino Ferrucci fired through into the Fast 12 with Pedersen and Ferrucci starring for A.J. Foyt Racing. Those who struggled and failed to transfer were led by David Malukas (who starts P13), Rinus VeeKay (P15), Callum Ilott (P17), Romain Grosjean (P19), Agustin Canapino (P21), Scott Dixon (P23), and Sting Ray Robb (P25).

The second knockout round featured 14 drivers vying for six transfer positions. A red flag with 11 seconds flew for Ryan Hunter-Reay, who spun off at Turn 14, which led to his two fastest laps being voided.

Pato O’Ward, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong, Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, and Alex Palou made it through to the Fast 12.

Graham Rahal led the group that would not transfer (P14) followed by Felix Rosenqvist (P16), Scott McLaughlin (P18), Simon Pagenaud (P20), Jack Harvey (P22), Will Power (P24), Helio Castroneves (P26) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (P27).

The Fast 12 was a thriller as Lundgaard was the first to go fastest and hold the top spot. The lead passed through many hands in the final two minutes led by Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, and Alexander Rossi.

Kirkwood’s motor failed at the end of the session, but he didn’t trigger a caution and was locked into a sixth-place starting position. Finished for the day was Christian Lundgaard (P7), Marcus Armstrong (P8), Marcus Ericsson (P9), Benjamin Pedersen (P10), Santino Ferrucci (P11), and Devlin DeFrancesco (P12). That left the run for pole to be settled between Colton Herta, Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi.

UP NEXT: Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, Sunday, 1pm ET, USA Network

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