Colton Herta will start on the pole position at St. Pete with many big names in the pack

0 Comments

Colton Herta will start from the NTT IndyCar Series pole position Sunday for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, rebounding from a dismal result in the season opener.

The Andretti Autosport driver turned a lap of 1 minute, 0.3210 seconds in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course in downtown St. Petersburg, narrowly besting the No. 60 of Jack Harvey (whose Meyer Shank Racing has a technical alliance with Andretti).

The Team Penske Chevrolets of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud will form the second row. Newgarden had been fastest in practice Friday and Saturday morning in St. Pete after triggering a six-car crash last Sunday on the first lap of the 2021 season at Barber Motorsports Park.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Full field rundown

GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE: Details and how to watch Sunday on NBC

Herta, 21, was among those inadvertently collected in the spin by Newgarden, which made his first pole this season and the fifth of his career a nice confidence booster.

“I knew we had a good race car for here and really good qualifying pace from last year,” said Herta, whose previous best start at St. Pete was a third last October. “Just had to get through those first two stages nice and clean.

“Car was so good today. Everyone did a phenomenal job all weekend up until this point. Really happy for the guys and hopefully we have a great race tomorrow.”

It’s the fourth pole position at St. Pete for Andretti but the first since Tony Kanaan in 2008.

Sebastien Bourdais, a two-time winner at St. Pete, qualified fifth at his hometown track, and Pato O’Ward, the pole-sitter at Barber, was last among the Fast Six cars have trying to squeeze speed solely out of the Firestone black compound while the top five starters used the softer red tire.

“We had a quick car in qualifying, but we just didn’t make quite the right call on either using reds or new blacks,” O’Ward said. “The track was very different to what we felt in Practice 2, but we have a quick race car. We are going to be thinking about it tonight, and we are going to go get it tomorrow.”

Reaffirming how deep the 24-driver field is this season, some big names will be starting midpack or worse. The biggest stunner was Will Power, who already had made news Saturday with a contract extension reported by NBC Sports’ Marty Snider.

Will Power will start a career-worst 20th for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he has eight poles and nine front row starts in the past 11 years (Joe/Skibinski/IndyCar).

Near the end of the second group in first-round qualifying, Power brushed the wall and suffered minor suspension damage that caused him to spin.

“I was up a little and tried to get a good exit, touched the wall, and it bent that toe,” Power, who was runner-up at Barber, told Snider. “So I tried to finish it, but too much, too bent. Yeah, unfortunate, man. It’s nuts to go from one of the best cars Friday to the worst car today. Unbelievable.”

Power, a nine-time pole-sitter at St. Pete, failed to advance from Group 1 for the first time since the July 2019 race weekend at Toronto. It’s the first time he was knocked out before the Fast Six in 13 races at St. Pete.

It will be the worst starting spot at St. Pete since a sixth in 2009 for Power, who had qualified on the front row in 10 of the past 12 races on the course. He later said “the aim for (Sunday) will be a top 10.”

Six-time defending series champion Scott Dixon (eighth) and title contender Alexander Rossi (11th) fared slightly better but still advanced only to the second round.

“It was definitely a pretty chaotic Round 1,” said Dixon, who was third at Barber. “Just barely scraped through there. Just really struggled with the entry. Which we’ve never had any problems through all the practices. Obviously the wind’s a lot higher, and track temps are up a lot between sessions there as well. Kind of caught me out for sure.

“On the Q2 there, Harvey came out in front of us and had to wave off Lap 2. Then we’re missing by a few hundredths. It’s a bit of a shame, but we’ll keep working on it. It’s not as easy as what it was last weekend at Barber, but we’ll keep working on it tonight. I know our race car was good last year, and we’ll probably revert to some of that stuff.”

Dixon’s new teammate Alex Palou, who became a first-time winner in IndyCar at Barber in his Chip Ganassi Racing debut, qualified 10th Saturday.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 23rd of 24 drivers in his IndyCar street course debut, avoiding starting in last for the second consecutive race by outqualifying Dalton Kellett.

Johnson said he picked up a second from practice on his best qualifying lap but struggled during the mad scramble to get a clean lap on the tight 14-turn layout.

“Trying to find a gap was much more difficult than I anticipated, and I really only got one good lap out of the two outings I made,” Johnson said. “It was just really kind of a mess out there. A second faster than what I did in practice. Big step for me, and I’m just chipping away at it.”

 


QUALIFYING RESULTS FOR GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSURG

1. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:00.3210 (107.425 mph)
2. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:00.5709 (106.982)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:00.6078 (106.917)
4. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:00.6353 (106.868)
5. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:01.0017 (106.227)
6. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:01.0799 (106.091)
7. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:00.4858 (107.133)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:00.4997 (107.108)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:00.5678 (106.988)
10. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:00.6220 (106.892)
11. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:00.6476 (106.847)
12. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:00.8671 (106.461)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:00.8524 (106.487)
14. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:00.7044 (106.747)
15. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:00.9167 (106.375)
16. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:00.7058 (106.744)
17. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:00.9569 (106.305)
18. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:00.8127 (106.557)
19. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:01.4220 (105.500)
20. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:01.1140 (106.031)
21. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:01.4453 (105.460)
22. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:01.5065 (105.355)
23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:01.8364 (104.793)
24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:02.3396 (103.947)

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for the full rundown

ROUND BY ROUNDGroup 1 l Group 2 l Round 2 l Fast Six

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.