McLaughlin dominates Nashville GP qualifying as Dixon crashes

#3: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet
#3: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

The delayed qualifying session for the Big Machine Music Grand Prix at Nashville produced a thrilling battle that saw Scott McLaughlin clinch pole position for Team Penske — his second straight pole here — while compatriot and defending race-winner Scott Dixon had a rare shunt.

Firestone Fast Six

Romain Grosjean and Pato O’Ward ran their sighting laps on primary tires, with Colton Herta and Alex Palou running their more used alternates. But it was McLaughlin who delivered a 1m16.0493s on his banker lap, before switching to his freshest set of alternates. He had put one less flyer on his set of reds from Q1 Group 1, so potentially had an advantage in the Fast Six.

Grosjean used primaries to deliver a 1m15.9921 to go top but that was never going to hold. Sure enough, Pato O’Ward on alternate tires produced a 1min15.3506s to take P1, but only until Palou used a fresh set of primaries to go top with 1m15.2462s. Herta then shaved a slight fraction off that benchmark, but McLaughlin absolutely demolished it with a 1m14.6099, 0.6sec clear of the field at the time — easily enough to claim his fourth IndyCar pole.

O’Ward is one of IndyCar’s ultimate fighters and threw his Arrow McLaren Chevrolet around the streets to halve McLaughlin’s advantage and grab the outside front row slot ahead of Herta and Palou.

Malukas did a fine job to nip ahead of Grosjean to take fifth.


McLaughlin made his first flyer on primaries look easy, with a 1min15.1900s lap on his third lap, over a quarter second clear of Grosjean, but teammate Herta delivered a lap just 0.05s shy before he joined the majority of the field pitted to collect a set of Firestone alternates.

Grosjean broke through the 75s barrier first with a 1m14.7695s – an average of 101.111mph – but remarkably that swiftly was eclipsed by four cars — O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Herta, Palou and McLaughlin.

Power was just bumped out of the top six when Scott Dixon made contact with the apex at Turn 11, which sent him understeering into the outside wall, bringing out the red flag. With under a minute left before the stoppage, race control declared everyone would be allowed one last flying lap when action resumed. O’Ward, Palou and Malukas stayed in pitlane, the latter counting on no one outside the top six improving and bumping him out.

Dale Coyne called it right…but only just. While Power and Newgarden knew they couldn’t get their tires up to temp in time, Kyle Kirkwood was only 0.015s shy of jumping into the top six.

Lundqvist was elated with 11th for his debut.

Q1 Group 2

On primary Firestones, and with the aid of the rubber laid down by Group 1, Palou laid down a 1m15.6071s lap, all-but breaching the 100mph barrier. Herta then improved on that by hundredths, despite the distraction of Power spin-turning his car in the Turn 9 run-off area.

With everyone switching to alternate tires, it was Grosjean and then Power who jumped to the top initially, but Palou’s 15.0849 put him on top. Herta and Kirkwood then delivered a 1-2 for Andretti Autosport Honda, Herta’s P1 being a 1m15.0030s – an average of 100.796mph.

Their teammate Grosjean also got through, along with Palou, O’Ward and Power, who kissed the wall on his final lap.

Surprises that didn’t get through: Felix Rosenvist, a mere 0.0039s behind Power and less than a tenth ahead of Marcus Armstrong, plus the other Marcus at Ganassi — 2021 Nashville winner Ericsson — also failed to make the cut.

Q1 Group 1

As luck would have it, this first group was much the ‘easier’ for the big guns such as defending Nashville winner Dixon, defending Nashville polesitter McLaughlin and hometown hero Newgarden.

The peril — flying laps could get interrupted by incidents from other runners. Benjamin Pedersen caused a red flag within a couple of minutes, which cost him his two fastest laps and any chance of graduation to Q2.

McLaughlin went top with a 1min16.6839sec on his Firestone primary tires, and lowered that to a 1m15.9916s on his fourth lap, 1m15.8671s on his fifth. That left him 0.23s clear of Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s best on alternate tires.

On this softer Firestones, Dixon moved to the top with a 1m15.7094s, 0.12s ahead of Alexander Rossi’s Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. McLaughlin’s scintillating effort on these alternates was a 1m15.1629s, 100.582mph average, and over half a second clear of Dixon.

Behind the two Kiwis, David Malukas snatched third in his Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Honda ahead of Rossi.

Newgarden wound up fifth, while IndyCar debutant Linus Lundqvist produced a brilliant effort (albeit using two sets of reds) to nudge Lundgaard out of the top six and outqualify Meyer Shank Racing Honda teammate Helio Castroneves by 0.13s.


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