St Pete IndyCar: McLaughlin beats Power, Herta to take first pole

Team Penske-Chevrolet driver Scott McLaughlin scored the first NTT IndyCar Series pole of his career with a near-perfect lap of St. Pete, outpacing teammate Will Power, as well as Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport-Honda.

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Firestone Fast Six

Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean was the first driver to duck below the 60sec mark in the final segment of qualifying, as all six drivers took to the track on reds.

Herta then hit the top with a 59.7104 which was eclipsed by Will Power delivering a 59.6847sec lap and then improving to a 59.6058sec. But the nine-time St. Pete polesitter had gotten sideways in Turn 9 on his best lap, and that opened the door for his teammate. An error-free lap from McLaughlin saw him beat Power by 0.1237sec to clock a 59.4821sec, an average of 108.940mph around the 1.8-mile course, in his first race with race engineer Ben Bretzman.

Rinus VeeKay ensured three Chevrolets in the top four with a 59.8102sec, the Ed Carpenter Racing driver beating Grosjean and Simon Pagenaud’s Meyer Shank Racing-Honda.

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap Mph
1 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin United States Team Penske 3 59.482   108.940
2 Australia Will Power United States Team Penske 4 59.605 0.123 108.714
3 United States Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport 4 59.710 0.228 108.524
4 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout United States Ed Carpenter Racing 4 59.810 0.328 108.343
5 France Romain Grosjean United States Andretti Autosport 4 59.811 0.329 108.340
6 France Simon Pagenaud United States Meyer Shank Racing 3 1'00.204 0.722 107.634

Q2

Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson elected to take Firestone’s softer ‘reds’ right from the start of the Q2 segment, although Herta and eclipsed them even on primaries.

Will Power would land the fastest primary lap, however, with a 60.0727sec, before pitting for a set of alternates. He then got his time down to 59.3466 to top the segment by just 0.0585sec ahead of Colton Herta, with Scott McLaughlin a brilliant third.

Also advancing to the Firestone Fast Six were Romain Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud, with Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing.

The Ganassi cars faltered at this stage but were still much stronger than in yesterday’s practice, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou finishing up seventh, eighth and 10th respectively. Dixon admitted he’d clipped the wall on Turn 9 entry while on primaries and then mis-timed his flyers on the stickier-for-2022 ‘red’ Firestones.

Surprisingly eliminated at this stage was Penske’s Josef Newgarden, a two-time St. Pete winner, telling NBC he was fighting a couple of issues and had also been struggling with traffic.

Kyle Kirkwood was kicking himself at making a mistake at the final corner at the start of his flying lap, and he confessed he then pushed too hard in the AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet and brushed the Turn 9 exit wall, but was reasonably satisfied to wind up as fastest rookie.

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap Mph
1 Australia Will Power United States Team Penske 7 59.346   109.189
2 United States Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport 6 59.405 0.058 109.082
3 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin United States Team Penske 7 59.515 0.169 108.879
4 France Romain Grosjean United States Andretti Autosport 6 59.555 0.209 108.805
5 France Simon Pagenaud United States Meyer Shank Racing 7 59.588 0.241 108.747
6 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout United States Ed Carpenter Racing 8 59.623 0.276 108.683
7 New Zealand Scott Dixon United States Chip Ganassi Racing 7 59.757 0.411 108.438
8 Sweden Marcus Ericsson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 8 59.824 0.477 108.318
9 United States Josef Newgarden United States Team Penske 7 59.886 0.539 108.205
10 Spain Alex Palou United States Chip Ganassi Racing 7 59.958 0.611 108.075
11 United States Graham Rahal United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 8 59.987 0.640 108.023
12 United States Kyle Kirkwood United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 6 1'00.261 0.915 107.531

Q1 G2

Will Power was the fastest driver on primary tires in Group 2, with a promising 60.1685sec, 0.1239sec ahead of former teammate Simon Pagenaud, now at Meyer Shank Racing-Honda.

Onto alternate Firestones, Alex Palou showed the same improved Ganassi form as teammate Dixon in Group 1, despite the reigning champion suffering a nasty shunt this morning. Right at the end of the session, Marcus Ericsson confirmed Ganassi’s progress by pushing Palou down to sixth.

Up front, Power led this morning’s pacesetter Scott McLaughlin in a Penske 1-2 with a 59.3929sec, while third was Romain Grosjean in his repaired Andretti Autosport-Honda, with compatriot Pagenaud taking fourth.

Dalton Kellett didn’t progress, but was a nonetheless impressive seventh, ahead of Pato O’Ward who bent his left-rear toe-link on the wall at Turn 9.

Jimmie Johnson was last but had his best lap impeded by rookie David Malukas in the Dale Coyne Racing-Honda, the youngster getting penalized as a result.

Q1 G1

On harder primary tires, the fastest lap came from Colton Herta, turning a 60.3955sec, a quarter second faster than Rinus VeeKay in his Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet.

On reds, Jack Harvey came out with his repaired car and went second fastest, before Alexander Rossi and then VeeKay ducked under the 60sec barrier.

Next driver to do that was Kyle Kirkwood of AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet, but his time was quickly shaded to the tune of 0.38sec by Herta’s first flyer on reds a 59.4662sec. Graham Rahal and VeeKay trimmed that margin, and Scott Dixon revived Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s hopes by vaulting into fourth, but Kirkwood remained in the top six, just ahead of Josef Newgarden’s Team Penske-Chevrolet.

A puzzled Alexander Rossi was a surprise failure to graduate into Q2, as was Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing.

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