Josef Newgarden on pole for Bommarito Automotive Group 500

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NTT IndyCar Series point leader Josef Newgarden collected his second pole position of the season during qualifying for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Friday evening.

With an average two-lap speed of 186.808 miles per hour around the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Newgarden, the final driver to make a qualifying run, was able to unseat provisional polesitter Sebastian Bourdais for the top starting position.

In addition to the front-row starting position, Newgarden’s pole-winning effort also added an additional bonus point to his lead over Alexander Rossi in the standings. Newgarden now leads Rossi by 36 points.

“This was kinda like an Iowa situation,” Newgarden told NBC Sports following his pole run. “When we were in Iowa, in practice I said ‘this is the car that can win the pole’, and we missed it just by a little bit. I would have been so mad at us as a unit if we did that again.

“I’m so happy we got it right. The guys did an amazing job with the PPG car. It was so good right off the truck.”

With Newgarden the final driver to qualify, Bourdais (185.927 mph) will start second in Saturday’s race.

Pocono winner Will Power qualified third with an average speed of 185.986 mph, while Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (185.143 mph) qualified fourth behind the wheel of the No. 22 Menard’s Chevrolet. Takuma Sato rounded-out the top five qualifiers, posting an average speed of 185.050 mph.

Two of the primary title contenders did not qualify as close to the front as they would have liked to, however. Scott Dixon will take the green flag from the eighth position, while Rossi’s qualifying run was only good enough for an 11th-place starting position.

“Right now NAPA/Andretti Honda isn’t where it needs to be,” Rossi told NBC Sports.

Though Rossi’s qualifying run may have not been what him and his crew had hoped for, the No. 27 still has an opportunity to dial things in during final practice later in the evening (9:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold).

As the sunlight turns to darkness, drivers and teams will have the perfect opportunity to turn laps in conditions similar to what they’ll run Saturday night’s race.

Live, flag to flag coverage of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 begins Saturday evening on NBCSN and streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

Click here for full qualifying results

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”