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)

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”