Pato O’Ward captures pole in starting lineup for Indy GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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IndyCar starting lineup: INDIANAPOLIS — Pato O’Ward proclaimed Friday morning he is in “full send” mode for the last five races of the NTT IndyCar Series, and he then backed it up in Indy GP qualifying.

The Arrow McLaren SP driver scored his third pole position this season, turning a 1-minute, 10.7147-second lap in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. O’Ward nipped Will Power with a lap that came after the session ended but counted because he took the green before time expired.

“We had a very tough last three races, and we’re ready to get back into victory lane,” O’Ward, who has finished ninth, eighth and 13th since winning at Detroit for his second victory in 2021, told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “This is the first step to that. Tomorrow we’ve got a job to finish and just continue, man. It’s still five races to go. A lot can happen, but this is definitely on the right track.

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“I’ve never been so excited to race here on the Indy road course.”

Romain Grosjean qualified third, and Christian Lundgaard was a stunning fourth for his IndyCar debut Saturday.

Colton Herta was fifth, followed by points leader Alex Palou, who leads Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon by 42 points and O’Ward by 48 points.

Team Penske lodged a protest that O’Ward had blocked Power early in the final round of qualifying, but IndyCar upheld the pole. Power said O’Ward “did a phenomenal lap to be on pole” and didn’t seem miffed about having to scrub his first lap.

“He started warming his tires and slowing up, then I had to back up,” Power said. “I didn’t get close enough to him. I could have driven right up to the back of him and he would have got a penalty. I had to get a gap for the next lap because I only had fuel for the next lap.

“That’s all that was. Let’s say it wasn’t a blatant block, but he starting waving and backing up. It is what it is. It’s fine. Top four or five cars were on the same 10th (of a second). Anyone’s go, I had a good second lap.”

After vowing to start outscoring the Ganassi cars (which also won the most recent race at Nashville with Marcus Ericsson), O’Ward got off to a great start with his series-leading third pole in 2021, particularly over Dixon (who will start a season-worst 26th after a qualifying spin nullified his best lap).

He did it by “risking it for the biscuit” with a typically bold maneuver through Turns 9 and 10 (“I shipped it, man”) that had the Mexican’s hands dexterously flicking the wheel on his pole-winning lap.

“I’m tired of being in the middle pack,” said O’Ward, who credited a recent test at Portland with improving his car’s handling and stability. “So the goal is definitely to truly return where we belong, which is contend for podiums, for poles, ultimately for wins.

“I think we have the car to do something great tomorrow. We just need to execute. I just think the focus on really executing on every single session that we do from now until the Long Beach (season finale) is going to be critical. But I’m not far back. I can definitely claw my way back into the fight for this championship.”

At the track where he won four Brickyard 400s on the oval layout, Jimmie Johnson qualified an impressive 22nd of 28 and nearly advanced to the second round for the first time during his rookie season with Ganassi.

“That was a good session for me,” Johnson told NBC Sports reporter Kevin Lee. “My confidence keeps building, the more laps that I get under my belt the better I go. That was a great session to be only six 10ths (of a second) off my teammates. This is a huge accomplishment for me.”

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for Indianapolis GP qualifying results | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 Round 2 

PRACTICE: Session I


STARTING LINEUP FOR THE INDIANAPOLIS BIG MACHINE SPIKED COOLERS GRAND PRIX  

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

ROW 1

1. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1 minute, 10.7147 seconds (124.167 mph)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:10.7214 (124.155)

ROW 2

3. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:10.7418 (124.119)
4. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 1:10.7433 (124.116)

ROW 3

5. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:10.7631 (124.082)
6. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1:10.8290 (123.966)

ROW 4

7. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:10.8875 (123.864)
8. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:10.9532 (123.749)

ROW 5

9. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:11.0208 (123.631)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:11.0240 (123.626)

ROW 6

11. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:11.0342 (123.608)
12. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:11.1346 (123.434)

ROW 7

13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:11.5084 (122.788)
14. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:11.3623 (123.040)**

ROW 8

15. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 1:11.5504 (122.716)
16. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:11.4174 (122.945)

ROW 9

17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:11.5583 (122.703)
18. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:11.4360 (122.913)

ROW 10

19. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:11.5739 (122.676)
20. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:11.5340 (122.744)

ROW 11

21. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:11.6676 (122.516)
22. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 1:11.8624 (122.184)

ROW 12

23. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:11.7319 (122.406)
24. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:12.0813 (121.812)

ROW 13

25. (75) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 1:12.3344 (121.386)
26. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:12.2660 (121.501)

ROW 14

27. (52) Cody Ware, Honda, 1:13.7572 (119.045)
28. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 1:12.5494 (121.027)

**–Newgarden will lose six starting spots because of a grid penalty