PORTLAND, Oregon – Colton Herta clinched the pole position for the Grand Prix of Portland Saturday afternoon in a wild qualifying session that saw all of the top three drivers in the championship standings miss the Fast Six.
On his final lap of the Firestone Fast Six, Herta posted a 57.8111 second lap, which was enough to narrowly take the top spot away from Will Power.
“I can’t believe we pulled it off,” Herta told NBC Sports. “It’s always a good day when you can beat Will Power in the Fast Six.”
Herta’s had plenty to smile about over the course of the weekend at Portland. On Friday, he was fastest in practice 1, and earlier in the day Saturday, he was fastest again in P3. In his relatively short career, Portland has already become one of Herta’s favorite tracks.
“I love this place,” Herta said. “I had my first IndyCar test here, so obviously it means a lot to me.
“To have a second career pole here is even cooler. Hopefully we can add a second career win.”
With Herta clinching the pole, Power would have to settle for second. Still, Power has no issue with a front-row starting position.
Power, going on a “one-and-done” strategy in the final round, locked his brakes entering Turn 1 on his lone flying lap, which flat-spotted his right front tire. Power ended the session just a mire 0.0192 seconds behind the pole.
“It was my fault for not warming the brakes a bit more,” Power said. “It’s tough when you go out and you have to pump it out straight away. You don’t get any temp in the brakes here because there’s no braking zones.
“But P2, you can definitely win from there. We’ll just go for it tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon qualified third, while Jack Harvey, Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top six qualifiers.
Alexander Rossi qualified seventh, which was the highest qualifying position for any of the top three championship contenders.
Fellow championship hopefuls Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud fared no better, as both failed to advance from round 1. Newgarden and Pagenaud will start Sunday’s race 12th and 18th, respectfully.
"You can't make a mistake, and I made a couple of them."
A few mistakes cost Josef Newgarden a spot in the Fast 12, opening the door for his closest @IndyCar competition to gain valuable points in the championship battle. pic.twitter.com/sqhl2ne6jS
“You can’t make a mistake, and I made a couple of them there,” Newgarden said. “I got wide in the curb coming off [Turn] 7, and dropped a tenth [of a second] on one lap, and then dropped another tenth on the final corner of the next.
“That’s Portland. That’s how it was last year, and I figured it was going to be that way this year.
“We’ll just go racing now.”
Live coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland begins tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.
“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.
“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”
Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.
The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.
After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”
Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.
Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.
“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.
“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.
“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”