Colton Herta wins Portland GP pole as title contenders miss Fast Six

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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 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.

Click here for full qualifying results 

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WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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