Rossi powers to maiden IndyCar pole in Watkins Glen (VIDEO)

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Drama between championship contenders Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden was amplified by Dixon edging Newgarden by the smallest possible margin in INDYCAR’s timing system – 0.0001 of a second – for what looked to be the pole position and the bonus point that went with it.

Then Alexander Rossi promptly stole the pole, the point and the headlines on his final lap by beating them both for the top spot for Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Rossi, in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda, continued his incredible weekend with his first career pole at a best time of 1:22.4639 on blacks in the Firestone Fast Six session.

That time was 0.0529 of a second ahead of Dixon’s 1:22.5168, and 0.0530 of a second ahead of Newgarden’s 1:22.5169.

“It was a big lap we needed. The lap before was pretty good, but they came on the radio and said, ‘You need at least a tenth.’ So, we went for it, dug deep and the NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Honda has been so good since we rolled off. We’ve never been lower than fifth,” Rossi said.

“It’s amazing to finally accomplish this, especially on the back of the announcement on Friday and I think it’s been a long time coming, so it’s just nice to finally get that. The whole team has been working so hard and they deserve this.

“This championship, there’s so much that can go on. With weather coming, that adds another variable, but we’re clicking at a level that we haven’t in the past and the momentum is on our side. We just have to capitalize and enjoy this for the next 30 minutes, then focus on the work we have to do tomorrow.”

Takuma Sato, Charlie Kimball and Helio Castroneves completed the Firestone Fast Six at the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International road course.

Honda’s leading pace continued in Q1, Group 1, with Rossi leading the session from Newgarden, Castroneves, Sato and Kimball and Will Power. Rossi’s time was 1:23.0804 and Power was at 1:23.4104, with Spencer Pigot just missing out at 1:23.4917.

Besides Pigot, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton were also knocked out.

In Group 2, Dixon led the session ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais (who advanced on blacks), Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and Carlos Munoz.

Those knocked out were Conor Daly, edged by his teammate at the end of the session, along with James Hinchcliffe, Jack Harvey in his road course IndyCar qualifying debut, Marco Andretti and JR Hildebrand.

Q2 was intense with the lap times changing all the way down to the wire. Hunter-Reay, Power, Bourdais, Rahal, Munoz and Pagenaud got knocked out. Hunter-Reay missed by just 0.032 of a second, and Bourdais’ primary black strategy misfired as he hoped to advance again.

Those who made it through to the Firestone Fast Six in a goofy session included Dixon, who led with a new track record 1:22.4171, Rossi, Sato, Kimball, Castroneves and Newgarden. This marked Kimball’s first Fast Six appearance of the season, first since Mid-Ohio last year when he qualified fifth.

Newgarden nearly crashed exiting The Boot but moved to the top as a result, before Dixon beat that time. Then Rossi beat them both, and that was all she wrote for the session.

RESULTS

WATKINS GLEN, New York – Qualifying Saturday for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:22.4639 (147.119)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:22.5168 (147.025)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:22.5169 (147.024)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:22.5660 (146.937)
5. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:22.8081 (146.507)
6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:23.3350 (145.581)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:22.9854 (146.194)
8. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:23.0987 (145.995)
9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:23.1459 (145.912)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:23.2240 (145.775)
11. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:23.2959 (145.649)
12. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:23.2981 (145.646)
13. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:23.4917 (145.308)
14. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:23.5089 (145.278)
15. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:23.9851 (144.454)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:23.6854 (144.972)
17. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:23.9982 (144.432)
18. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:24.1390 (144.190)
19. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:24.2012 (144.083)
20. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:24.1779 (144.123)
21. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:24.4543 (143.652)

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.