DETROIT — Josef Newgarden became the seventh pole winner through seven IndyCar qualifying sessions this season when the two-time series champion put Team Penske at the front of the starting lineup for Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix, the event’s final time at Belle Isle Raceway.
Newgarden won the pole on the temporary street course for the third time in his career as time expired on Saturday’s qualifying session.
“I was loose; I was about hitting the wall every corner,” he said of his pole lap on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit. “I think we needed two laps to get temperature (in the tires). I was just struggling to build temp.
QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for the full report from the Detroit Grand Prix l Round 1, Group 1 l Round 1, Group 2 l Round 2 l Fast Six
CHEVROLET GRAND PRIX OF DETROIT: How to watch Sunday’s race, schedules, entry list
“It was so loose, and I was like, ‘You’ve just got to stay in it.’ I knew the track was grippier. That was a good pole. Sometimes the car is just so good that it’s hooked up. I was loose today, and we put it together. I’m really proud of the team.”
The American started from the pole at Belle Isle a year ago and led 67 of the 70 laps in a dominating run that appeared to be headed toward Newgarden’s first win of the season.
Instead, a late caution caused a final restart, and Pato O’Ward drove through the field over the final seven laps to snatch his first victory of the season; Newgarden finished second.
“I’ve been here before, we did this last year and fell short,” Newgarden said. “We’ve got to be really focused on the race and how we’re going to get to the end and finish it off.”
Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, USA, Peacock Premium) is the final Detroit Grand Prix to be run on Belle Isle. Roger Penske’s promotion group will move the event next season to a downtown Detroit race, where it started in 1982.
Newgarden, who won his 16th pole, is IndyCar’s only two-time winner this season. He was a disappointing 13th in last week’s Indianapolis 500.
Takuma Sato qualified second for Dale Coyne Racing and was followed by Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.
O’Ward qualified fifth for Arrow McLaren SP, and 20-year-old rookie David Malukas was sixth for Coyne.
Honda, the Indy 500 winning engine manufactuer, had four cars in the Fast Six of Saturday’s qualifying. Chevrolet had just two representatives, but claimed the pole with Newgarden.
Each of the four rounds of qualifying had its share of action.
Kyle Kirkwood, fastest in Friday practice and the pole-winner for the GT class in Saturday’s IMSA sports car race, crashed in Saturday morning practice and injured his right hand. He failed to advance out of the first group and said after his taped hand “isn’t great.”
In the next group, Felix Rosenqvist was penalized for impeding Jimmie Johnson’s qualifying run. In the round of 12, IndyCar investigated an incident between reigning champion Alex Palou and Will Power. No action was taken, and Power was initially angry that Palou had ruined his qualifying lap, but ultimately conceded neither he or Palou was advancing into the Fast Six.
But there was still a possibility of a fantastic Indy 500 rebound for Andretti Autosport, which had three of its four drivers poised to advance into the Fast Six. Romain Grosjean crashed, though, and it ruined any shot of his Andretti teammates Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi advancing.
“It was a decent hit,” Grosjean said. “We sucked. I don’t know why. We were really good in (Friday practice), really good this morning, and the car let go. I don’t know why.”
The Grosjean crash also eliminated Scott Dixon of Ganassi and Scott McLaughlin of Penske from advancing.
Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street course (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time, speed):
1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.2153 (112.477 mph)
2. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:15.3490 (112.278)
3. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:15.3951 (112.209)
4. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:15.4538 (112.122)
5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:16.3301 (110.834)
6. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:16.6104 (110.429)
7. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:15.1043 (112.643)
8. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:15.2279 (112.458)
9. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:15.4057 (112.193)
10. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:15.8670 (111.511)
11. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.2179 (110.998)
12. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:16.9740 (109.907)
13. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:16.0154 (111.293)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:15.5482 (111.981)
15. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:16.1255 (111.132)
16. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5731 (111.945)
17. (77) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 01:16.1390 (111.113)
18. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:15.6121 (111.887)
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:16.3068 (110.868)
20. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:16.8347 (110.107)
21. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:16.3374 (110.824)
22. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:17.5499 (109.091)
23. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.4265 (110.695)
24. (11) Tatiana Calderon, Chevrolet, 01:18.3657 (107.955)
25. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
26. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:18.6291 (107.594)