Josef Newgarden was just 0.0128sec faster than Penske teammate Will Power around Barber Motorsport Park, but it was enough to earn him his first pole of the 2018 IndyCar season.
Newgarden, who set the fastest time of the weekend in Q2 with a 67.05s in Q2, then dug deep on used reds to notch a 67.4413sec and beat four-time Barber polesitter Power by barely more than a hundredth of a second.
The reigning champion also became IndyCar's fourth different pole-winner of the season.
Barely less impressive was Sebastien Bourdais’ P3 in the Dale Coyne Racing-Honda. The St. Petersburg winner wound up just 0.0924s off top spot, but quarter of a second ahead of Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. The 2012 champion, who won at this track in 2013 and ’14, is still seeking his first IndyCar win since August ’15.
James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda was half a second off the top, yet that was still enough to narrowly eclipse the leading Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda of four-time champion Scott Dixon.
Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti grabbed his best qualifying position of the year with seventh ahead of championship-leading teammate and Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi.
Simon Pagenaud was a surprising 0.78sec off teammate Newgarden in Q2 and will therefore line up only ninth, ahead of Schmidt Peterson’s second car, driven by rookie Robert Wickens.
One rookie who particularly impressed was Andretti’s fourth driver, Zach Veach, who advanced from Q1 from the first time to nail 11th. The fourth-place finisher in Long Beach is ill this weekend, but he did enough to edge the guy who beat him to the podium in last week’s race, Ed Jones.
Although neither driver escaped their respective Q1 qualifying groups, Carlin-Chevrolet could be reasonably content at being best of the rest, with Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton starting 13th and 14th.
By contrast, it was a bad day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with Graham Rahal admitting to errors at Turns 2 and 9 and Takuma Sato understeering off at Turn 5. The pair will start 15th and 18th respectively.
In 21st and 23rd will be the two AJ Foyt Racing-Chevys, with Matheus Leist having been slowest in Q1 Group 1, and Tony Kanaan spinning as he exited pitlane for his final stab at advancing to Q2 in the second group.
The Brazilian veteran backed his car into the tire wall, lost his best times and brought the session to a premature end.
Q1 Group 2
|8||19||Zachary Claman De Melo||3||1'08.5531||0.4444||0.0037||120.782|
Q1 Group 1