By Tony DiZinno of Trackside Online
Josef Newgarden has led a Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet front row sweep in qualifying for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, with Will Power second and four more Hondas completing the Firestone Fast Six.
Reminder that here at Road America, the sessions are two minutes longer due to the 4.014-mile track length. It’s 12 minutes for each of Rounds 1 and 2, then eight minutes for the Firestone Fast Six.
Temperatures are 74 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and 111 track for this session, per Firestone. That track temperature is 15 degrees warmer than it was for third practice this morning.
In Round 1, Group 1, Charlie Kimball, Zachary Claman De Melo and Alfonso Celis Jr. start on Firestone reds while the rest start on blacks.
On the first round of laps, a couple of the Andretti Autosport drivers clocked in the 1:43 bracket, with Rossi at 1:43.8746 and Hunter-Reay at 1:43.9403. Rossi had a massive moment exiting Turn 7 over the curbs, but corralled his No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda.
After the first runs, it’s Rossi, Hunter-Reay, ZCD, Jones, Bourdais and Power through with King, Andretti, Veach, Celis and Kimball on the outside looking in. Cars will have about one, maybe two more hot laps to advance.
Jones goes quickest on the reds at 1:43.8321 after everyone’s been in for tires. Then Veach is at 1:43.4578, with Hunter-Reay and Bourdais behind him. Rossi goes 1:43.0740 on his first lap on the reds to move to first in his group.
Power squeaks through on his final lap at 1:43.4455 to avoid relegation.
At the end of the Group, it’s Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Power, Veach, Jones and Bourdais. Knocked out are King, Andretti, ZCD, Kimball and Celis, with the Mexican driver set to start 21st for his series debut.
Claman De Melo takes two checkered flags and his No. 19 Paysafe Honda team for Dale Coyne Racing will be penalized post-event.
KOHLER Grand Prix Qualifying – Segment 1, Group 1
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICK LAP||GAP|
|9||19||Zachary Claman De Melo||1:44.019||0.9449|
|11||32||Alfonso Celis Jr||1:45.558||2.4844|
Chilton was the only driver to start on Firestone reds in Group 2, with the remaining 11 drivers all starting on blacks.
Rahal, Newgarden, Wickens and Sato were in the 1:44.1 bracket to start this group, still not quite matching up to the times from Group 1. With four-odd minutes to go, the field begins hitting the pits for sticker reds.
Pigot is first in the 1:43s on reds, at 1:43.4150. Rahal goes a bit quicker at 1:43.3874, then Newgarden goes to a 1:43.0010 lap. This is quicker than Rossi went in Group 1. Wickens advances into second at 1:43.1675.
Wickens goes 1:42.9097 right at the end to lead this session.
Pagenaud is one of the biggest casualties of this group, with the driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet only seventh in the group and missing out by 0.0003 of a second.
The other is Hinchcliffe, who was eighth in the group.
KOHLER Grand Prix Qualifying – Segment 1, Group 2
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE|
In round two, Newgarden, Rossi, Sato, Hunter-Reay and Rahal in succession all posted their first banker flying laps on the blacks, with Rahal the only one in the 1:43 bracket at 1:43.8313.
With just under five minutes remaining, the order is Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Sato, Bourdais, Rossi and Newgarden. Right now on the outside looking in, it is Jones, Pigot, Power, Wickens, Dixon and Veach.
After stops, everyone has at least one and maybe two laps they can run on the reds.
Veach goes 1:43.6662 to top the charts, but only briefly. Rahal goes 1:43.2667. Sato jumps ahead to go into second. Power then goes 1:43.2914 for second. Newgarden and Wickens are only in the 1:43.8 bracket, then Hunter-Reay at 1:43.7. Rossi goes 1:43.1096 to move to the top.
Before the final laps it is Rossi, Rahal, Power, Jones, Sato and Veach with RHR, Wickens, Newgarden, Bourdais and Dixon yet to put in their banker red laps.
Bourdais does at 1:43.0505, then Veach answers with a 1:43.2265 to go P3 for the moment, again, only briefly. Pigot goes 1:43.1995. Sato goes 1:43.1108, then Power 1:43.0745, with Newgarden into the 1:42s at 1:42.9296, Wickens 1:43.0, RHR 1:42.9860, Dixon gets eliminated and Rossi goes 1:42.7998.
So after that flurry of activity on the final lap, it’s Rossi, Newgarden, RHR, Bourdais, Wickens and Power for the Firestone Fast Six. Knocked out are Sato, Dixon, Rahal, Pigot, Veach and Jones.
KOHLER Grand Prix Qualifying – Segment 2
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|
The Firestone Fast Six is only eight minutes and it takes until four and a half before anyone banks a lap.
Bourdais goes 1:44.2563 on his set of reds in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda to set the first lap.
Power posts a 1:43.7662. Newgarden is a bit off at 1:43.8385, and Wickens isn’t as fast either at 1:43.9349.
Rossi, however, goes 1:43.4361, while Hunter-Reay follows shortly at 1:43.6662.
Power finds half a second to improve to a 1:43.2508, which knocks Rossi off pole. Newgarden goes 1:43.2026 to jump over Power and grab the pole.
Chevrolet’s pair of Team Penske cars go 1-2 ahead of the four Hondas in the Fast Six.
This is Newgarden’s third pole of the year and first time he has gone back-to-back for poles, after also winning the pole at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s nice when you have the car to do it. We had the speed on Friday so to finish it off today is nice,” Newgarden told the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
“It’s only goal one. Two races; one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out. Verizon has been very good to us, and Team Chevy as well. Engine package has been phenomenal to get the most out of it. You see how well we work together with Team Penske and Team Chevy.”
KOHLER Grand Prix Qualifying – Firestone Fast Six
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|