Colton Herta takes pole in starting lineup for inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville

IndyCar Nashville starting lineup
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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IndyCar starting lineup: NASHVILLE — Colton Herta crushed the field in qualifying to capture the pole Saturday for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix.

The Andretti Autosport driver, who already had paced the first two practices on the 11-turn, 2.17-mile track, remained dominant on the streets of downtown Nashville by posting a 1-minute, 13.6835-second lap in his No. 26 Dallara-Honda .

Scott Dixon qualified a distant second (1:14.2327), more than a half-second behind Herta.

It’s the sixth career pole position for Herta and his first since a victory in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg three months ago. He was able to save his faster alternate tires for the final two rounds after setting the second-quickest time in Group 2 of Round 1.

MUSIC CITY GRAND PRIXSchedules and info for watching IndyCar’s Nashville debut

VIEWER’S GUIDEWhat to watch Sunday in Nashville’s inaugural race

“It was a good lap, but what we did in Q1 really helped us,” Herta, who has won the past three times he has started first, told NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider. “The car is fantastic. We’re really in a league of our own. It felt amazing. Good car to take into the race tomorrow, nice and stable. So real excited.”

Alex Palou qualified third (but will start ninth because of a six-position grid penalty), followed by Alexander Rossi, Felix Roseqnvist and Romain Grosjean, who advanced to the final round after a crash penalty to Josef Newgarden.

The hometown favorite’s bid for a fourth consecutive pole position ended in Turn 11 as he slammed the wall hard with the right front of his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Because he caused a yellow at the end of the session, the two-time IndyCar champion lost his best lap time and dropped to a 12th-place starting position for the race, which will take place about 10 minutes from his house in downtown Nashville.

“Disappointing, I was just trying to make up the deficit,” Newgarden told Snider. “Good to be here in Nashville, though. Everyone has done a great job of bringing this event to this city, and this is the city where IndyCar needs to be, so I’m really proud to be from here. This is crazy cool. I’d never dreamed of this actually getting off the ground. Pretty pumped for (Sunday). Just wish we were higher up. Just trying to claw some performance back, and I overpushed.

“We’ve got a fast car. We can make something of it. It’s just going to be harder now. You can’t wreck and not get penalized. That’s on me. This is a quick weekend. You take a swing at a new track like this, it’s either right on or a little off. We’ve worked really hard at trying to be as prepared as possible. I think we’ve gotten more performance back. We were a lot closer, I just overstepped.”

Among the notables who will be coming from the rear after failing to advance from Round 1: Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Sebastien Bourdai, Rinus VeeKay, Scott McLaughlin and Takuma Sato.

Jimmie Johnson will start 25th of 27 cars Sunday after crashing in Turn 10 on his opening lap of the session.

It’s a tough break for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, whose No. 48 Dallara-Honda had shown flashes of speed during practices Friday and Saturday while many veterans struggled. Johnson remained optimistic about his chances Sunday.

“What a bummer,” Johnson said. “I had a great day in practice and really been enjoying the course. On my out lap trying to get the tires up to temp, I was too aggressive into Turn 10 starting my lap. Locked the inside tire, found the inside wall.

“Another rookie lesson learned. I’ll file that away with that expereince. I think we’re going to have a fast car for the race.”

During a wild practice Saturday, Alexander Rossi, Scott McLaughlin and six-time champion Scott Dixon all found the wall on the tight circuit.

“It looked like a zoo out there,” Herta told Snider. “Whole bunch of exhibits in Turn 9 and Turn 4.”

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for Nashville qualifying results | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 Round 2 l Round 3

PRACTICE: Session I l Session II


STARTING LINEUP FOR THE MUSIC CITY GRAND PRIX IN NASHVILLE  

(Qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed)

ROW 1

1. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:13.6835 (102.601)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:14.2327 (101.842)

ROW 2

3. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:14.6316 (101.298)
4. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:14.6646 (101.253)

ROW 3

5. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:15.0045 (100.794)
6. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:15.3980 (100.268)

ROW 4

7. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:15.1309 (100.624)
8. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.1354 (100.618)

ROW 5

9. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:15.1914 (100.543)
10. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:15.3255 (100.364)

ROW 6

11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5016 (100.130)
12. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5062 (100.124)

ROW 7

13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1097 (99.330)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:15.4984 (100.135)

ROW 8

15. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:16.3479 (99.020)
16. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:15.6055 (99.993)

ROW 9

17. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 01:16.4647 (98.869)
18. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:15.6379 (99.950)

ROW 10

19. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:17.1516 (97.989)
20. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:15.6685 (99.909)

ROW 11

21. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:17.5553 (97.479)
22. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:15.7029 (99.864)

ROW 12

23. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:18.1899 (96.688)
24. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:15.8503 (99.670)

ROW 13

25. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, no time, no speed
26. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:15.8770 (99.635)

ROW 14

27. (52) Cody Ware, Honda, 01:18.0928 (96.808)

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”