Pole “would have been amazing,” but Newgarden race-focused from P2

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden stood, waiting, wondering whether his four-lap run of 230.700 mph would stand as the pole-winning speed for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

One by one, with Townsend Bell, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay, they came up short of the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet.

The tension was the polar opposite of the polar bear car – it was hot.

And in far less than the amount of time it took for an ice cube to melt, Newgarden’s pole opportunity also slipped away.

By all of 0.060 of a mph and 0.0407 a second after four laps, and 10 miles. James Hinchcliffe beat him.

Not that Newgarden minded, that much.

“Pole is incredible. I wanted to win it so bad. It would have been amazing,” Newgarden said in the post-qualifying press conference.

“But the main thing is, we gotta win this race. We’ve done a great job of getting to the top nine. Getting a good starting spot today was the goal, and we got a good second. We were second best.

“You can’t take anything away from James and the Honda and the whole team. It’s a stout operation. Amazing four laps. We all had an equal opportunity. They deserve everything they got today.”

Newgarden’s Ed Carpenter Racing team gambled on strategy a bit. He qualified Saturday at a higher downforce rear wheel pod configuration, with extra winglets on both his left and right pods. His Saturday speed of 230.229 mph – run in that higher downforce configuration – was still good enough to make it to the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday.

That being said, come Sunday when Newgarden took the winglets off and qualified more trimmed out, the speed was bound to come.

A 231.551 mph first lap, the fastest of the day and the only qualifying lap in the 231 mph range, was still hard to fathom.

“I was shocked when I saw the first lap,” Newgarden admitted.

But he said the run was about what he could have hoped for.

“The run itself wasn’t terribly bad. Thought we had the car sorted. It wasn’t easy,” he said.

“We were running with a bit more (downforce, than it may have looked) today. But we kept the speeds up. It wasn’t as on the edge as it could have been. Putting it on ragged edge hasn’t been as successful this weekend.”

The reference to it not being as much on the edge as it could have been goes to the aero changes this year, particularly the “infamous” domed skids on the underside of the chassis and the rear wing beam flaps on the rear wheel guards.

Drivers and teams have noted the cars have been tougher to drive, but it has also provided a great test of driver talent.

For Newgarden, a better race is the goal, because this has been a race where he’s struggled results-wise.

He has prior starts of seventh, 25th, eighth and ninth — but his finishes have been only 25th, 28th, 30th and ninth.

After a playful jab from fellow front-row starter Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will roll off third next Sunday, Newgarden said he’ll have to study the 2014 Indy 500 champion’s past races.

“I’m gonna get a glass of milk and study his strategies. See what I can do to be like Ryan tomorrow,” he joked.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III