Colton Herta wins pole; four title contenders in the final round

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MONTEREY, Calif. – Colton Herta captured the pole position for Sunday’s season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway, where all four NTT IndyCar championship contenders made the final round.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon, a long shot for his sixth championship, qualified second Saturday followed by Alexander Rossi, who is 41 points behind Josef Newgarden. The points leader went off on a flying lap late in the final session and qualified fourth ahead of James Hinchcliffe, who was fifth fastest with questions circling about his future.

TODAY: IndyCar season finale at Laguna Seca, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC

“I knew I had to push on that lap to get the pole,” said Newgarden, who is seeking his second championship. “I don’t know if I would have beat (Herta), but we would have been in the (front row) region. We’re in where we need to be to start. Now it’s a matter of how we stay there.

“It’s a good thing to be close to the competition, specifically the ones in the championship. Yeah, we’ve got to have a good clean run. You’d like to win every race and maybe we’ve got a race-winning car. It certainly feels like we have the capability of it. But we need to have a good clean day, try and not get caught up in anything, and just run our race like we normally would.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud (third in the points standings) qualified sixth.

With his third pole position of the season, Herta joined his father, Bryan, as a top qualifier on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course. Bryan Herta qualified on pole position in 1997-99 and won in ’98-99 at Laguna Seca.

“It obviously means a lot with the family history, and 50 percent of his IndyCar wins coming from here,” Colton Herta said. “Obviously it means a lot to kind of keep on the family tradition.”

The four championship contenders were all among the dozen drivers and Group 1, and they advanced with the top four spots.

Newgarden was quickest with a lap of 1:10.3081, followed by Rossi (1:10.3097), Scott Dixon (1:10.3256) and Simon Pagenaud (1:10.4809).

Click here for the qualifying results Saturday at Laguna Seca.