IndyCar Long Beach starting lineup: Colton Herta captures pole as Andretti thrives

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LONG BEACH, California — Backing up his first win at his hometown IndyCar race last September, Colton Herta earned his first pole position at the track Saturday to lead the starting lineup for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Herta, a Southern California native who grew up in Valencia, set a track record with a 1-minute, 5.3095-second lap that shattered the previous mark of 1:06.2254 set by Helio Castroneves five years ago.

“As a young kid, I always dreamed of being an IndyCar driver, and that’s because of this race,” Herta, 22, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider of the eighth pole position of his NTT IndyCar Series career. “To get the win last year was amazing, and we checked another box off today with the pole. It feels incredible.”

LONG BEACH QUALIFYINGClick here for results

TIRE DESIGNATIONS: Starting lineup with primary or alternate choices

Herta won from 14th last year, leading the final 22 laps.

His No. 26 Dallara-Honda was the fastest of three Andretti Autosport cars that made the final round of qualifying.

The team was headed for a front-row sweep until Romain Grosjean had his lap time erased by a crash with 2 seconds remaining in the session, putting him sixth behind teammate Alexander Rossi.

“We tried very hard, Colton was super fast today,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “The last lap I just tried real hard, and it didn’t work. The good thing is we’re sixth on the grid. The rule is hard that you lose your lap time because I should be second on the grid, but I also like it that if you create a red flag, it’s on you.

“We’re going to work for tomorrow. It’s going to be tough, and Colton shows us last year it was possible to overtake. We’re going to go for it.”

Josef Newgarden qualified second, followed by Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist.

GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACHHow to watch Sunday on NBC and Peacock

The qualifying session produced the usual differences of opinion and frustration among drivers to find clear track on the jammed layout. Will Power (seventh) was displeased by traffic that cost him time when Pato O’Ward had to stop in the hairpin.

Scott McLaughlin (ninth) and Marcus Ericsson (eighth) were upset with each other in these separate interviews with Lee.

Jimmie Johnson will be starting 26th after losing his two fastest laps for impeding Graham Rahal. Despite a fractured right hand from a crash Friday, Johnson plans to race with a carbon-fiber splint and said he felt no pain Saturday despite another shunt for his No. 48 Dallara-Honda into a tire barrier.

JIMMIE WILL RACE: Johnson considered skipping Long Beach because of injury

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, speed):


ROW 1

1. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:05.3095 (108.480 mph)
2. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:05.7550 (107.745)

ROW 2

3. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:05.8667 (107.563)
4. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:05.9349 (107.451)

ROW 3

5. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:06.0674 (107.236)
6. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, No Time (No Speed)

ROW 4

7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:05.8745 (107.550)
8. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:05.9548 (107.419)

ROW 5

9. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:06.0507 (107.263)
10. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:06.0678 (107.235)

ROW 6

11. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:06.0726 (107.228)
12. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:06.2604 (106.924)

ROW 7

13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.6896 (106.235)
14. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:06.2467 (106.946)

ROW 8

15. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:06.7049 (106.211)
16. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.3241 (106.821)

ROW 9

17. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:06.7418 (106.152)
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:06.4489 (106.620)

ROW 10

19. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:06.7925 (106.072)
20. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:06.5049 (106.530)

ROW 11

21. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:06.9708 (105.789)
22. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 01:06.6672 (106.271)

ROW 12

23. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.1001 (105.586)
24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:06.7679 (106.111)

ROW 13

25. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:09.0287 (102.636)
26. (11) Tatiana Calderon, Chevrolet, 01:07.4789 (104.993)