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Felix Rosenqvist claims first career pole in Indy GP qualifying

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It will be an all-Chip Ganassi Racing front row for Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix, as rookie Felix Rosenqvist scored his first IndyCar pole position Friday afternoon.

The driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Honda set the fastest lap of the session with an elapsed time of 1 minute, 8.2785 seconds.

“The first two laps, I didn’t really feel like I had a (tire) grip, and then the final lap, there was something switching on and I was like, ‘OK, this could be good,” Rosenqvist told NBCSN. “But honest, I didn’t think it was going to be (fast enough). It’s so tight. I looked up at the screen, and we were P1. I just prayed it was going to hold ’til the end.”

Rosenqvist’s first career pole comes in just his fifth start. With the past four winners of this race starting from the pole, Rosenqvist put himself in good position to claim his first series victory Saturday.

Scott Dixon (1 minute, 8.2979 seconds) will start alongside Rosenqvist in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, with Jack Harvey (1 minute, 8.3238 seconds) starting third after making his first career Firestone Fast Six appearance.

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Will Power, whose three victories in the IndyCar GP have all come from pole position, was unable to capture his fourth pole on the 2.439-mile road course and will start sixth, his worst IndyCar GP start since 2016.

“I think we’ve just back foot all day honestly,” Power told NBCSN. “The lap I did to get into the Fast Six was just a neat, neat lap on a right time on the tires. It’s killing me to only be P6! But it’s so competitive, man. [If] you’re a little bit out of the window, you’re going to struggle.”

In a surprising first round of qualifying, both series points leader Josef Newgarden and Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi were not fast enough to advance. Newgarden qualified 13th, and Rossi was 17th.

Click here for full qualification results.

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Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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