IMS IndyCar: Pole for O’Ward, Lundgaard stars in shockingly close fight

Pato O’Ward took his third IndyCar pole of the season in a fight that saw five drivers covered by 0.05sec – and one of those five was IndyCar debutant Christian Lundgaard.

IMS IndyCar: Pole for O’Ward, Lundgaard stars in shockingly close fight

Firestone Fast 12

On primary tires, Rinus VeeKay, IndyCar debutant Lundgaard and Will Power were fastest, before pitting for Firstone’s alternate tires. Times then tumbled on reds, with almost everyone’s fastest laps coming on their second flyers on the softer compound, and it was O’Ward – who so nearly spun at Turn 10 on his flyer – who emerged on top with 1min10.7147sec lap.

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Power, seeking his 63rd pole position, fell 0.0067sec short in an insanely tight session that saw the top five covered by half-a-tenth. There was initially some controversy, as the #12 Penske team told the stewards that O’Ward held up Power on his flyer, but the stewards reviewed the evidence and allowed the results to stand.

"I wanted to make sure this was a turning point,” said a relieved O’Ward to Peacock TV. “We've had a very tough last few, three races, and we're ready to get back into victory lane. This is the first step to that and tomorrow we have a job to finish. There's still five races to go. A lot can happen, but this is definitely on the right track…

"I've never been so excited to race here on the Indy road course. Since practice one I said we're going to get some good point this weekend."

The rookie who took pole and finished second here in May, Romain Grosjean, wound up third, just 0.0015sec ahead of massively impressive IndyCar debutant Christian Lundgaard, the 20-year-old Dane making his mark immediately for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda team.

Colton Herta was fastest of the Andretti Autosport-Honda drivers as usual, beating Alex Palou, fastest of the Chip Ganassi Racing-Hondas.

Jack Harvey was a mildly disappointing seventh for Meyer Shank Racing-Honda at a track where he excels, while Conor Daly edged his Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet teammate Rinus VeeKay for ninth.

Q1 Group 2

Palou, O’Ward, Newgarden, Lundgaard, Ericsson, Rossi, Grosjean, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Rosenqvist, Jones, Sato, Kellett, Johnson

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi got landed top spot with the second sub-71sec lap of the session, but Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s debutant Christian Lundgaard was the star of the group, clocking second fastest time, just 0.0644sec slower, and ahead of points leader Alex Palou, the two Arrow McLaren SP-Chevys of Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward and May’s polesitter Romain Grosjean.

However, Rosenqvist was penalized when he drove pace unabated through a yellow flag section following a spin by Scott Dixon. Dixon was making a last desperate attempt to reach the top six, but his rotation meant he failed to graduate and lost his best lap.

Another surprise elimination was Josef Newgarden, who caught James Hinchcliffe at an inconvenient moment on his flyer, and is already consigned to a six-place grid penalty.

Marcus Ericsson benefited from Rosenqvist’s penalty to reach the top six.

In contrast to Dixon, his teammate Jimmie Johnson was hugely impressive in his failure to graduate, only 0.87sec off top spot, and less than half a second slower to the six-time IndyCar champion.

Q1 Group 1

Meyer Shank Racing-Honda’s Jack Harvey led Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Simon Pagenaud (Penske) on the harder Firestone primary tires, before everyone other than Herta ducked into the pits for a set of alternate tires.

Power was the only driver to duck under 71sec in this group, with a 1min 10.9988sec and the other drivers to advance to the Firestone Fast 12 were Harvey, a very impressive Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing, Pagenaud, Herta on primaries, and VeeKay, who survived a brief off-course excursion.

The Dutch youngster edged Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport by 0.0876sec. Helio Castroneves was 0.65sec off Meyer Shank Racing teammate Harvey and only 12th, but ahead of RC Enerson in the Top Gun Racing-Chevy, as the team returns to action for the first time since its attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

 
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IMS IndyCar: Palou leads, Lundgaard impresses in practice

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