Laguna Seca starting lineup: Will Power passes Mario Andretti with record pole

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MONTEREY, California — Will Power broke Mario Andretti’s record for poles on the day he most needed a big run, taking the top spot in the starting lineup at Laguna Seca for the IndyCar season finale.

The greatest qualifier in IndyCar history — and points leader — is now one step closer to a second championship.

Power grabbed his 68th career pole with Andretti watching from pit lane Saturday at Laguna Seca Raceway. Andretti made his way to Power’s car and gave him a thumbs-up, while Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin hopped on the side of Power’s car to give him a high-five.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for Laguna Seca qualifying speeds | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 | Round 2 l Round 3

BLACKS OR REDS: Starting lineup with tire designations

INDYCAR AT LAGUNA SECADetails for watching Sunday on NBC

“Didn’t even occur to me until they told me. I can’t celebrate so much because I’ve got to be ready for (the finale),” said Power, who won his fifth pole of the season to break the mark.

Andretti eventually made his way to the staging area where the Australian was being celebrated for the pole-winning run.

“I tell you, to see Mario Andretti walk up the pits and shake his hand, that’s something I’ll remember,” said Roger Penske, owner of Power’s car.

Andretti, who was also passed this year for second on the wins list by Scott Dixon, was pleased for Power.

“I know how much I love qualifying and he’s the same,” Andretti said. “It was coming. It’s beautiful. It’s great for the sport, and records are meant to be broken.

Power, who was given a new hat that read “68 poles” said the scene on pit lane with Penske and Andretti was “surreal.”

“At such a crucial point, I couldn’t celebrate it very much and I don’t want to give out too much energy because I need to save it,” Power said. “When you have those sort of figures there congratulating you, you are sort of pinching yourself.”

The pole-winning run gave Power one additional point in the standings. The current IndyCar leader heads into Sunday’s finale up 21 points over both Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson is 40 points out and McLaughlin trails by 42 in what remains the closest IndyCar championship race since 2003.

It was a fairly disastrous qualifying session for all the championship contenders besides Power.

The session fell apart almost instantly when Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion and winner of a series-high five races this season, went off course in the corkscrew and found himself stuck in the gravel. He was penalized his two fastest laps, was not permitted to advance out of the first group and will start 25th on Sunday.

“I just made a mistake. It’s frustrating,” Newgarden said. “I think we have the fastest car in the field. But it’s a bummer, it’s a bummer for everybody. It’s not over, but it’s not ideal what just happened.”

IndyCar extended the session to give the qualifiers a chance to complete one lap, but Dixon failed to advance and will start 13th. McLaughlin and Ericsson advanced, but Ericsson spun in the second group and qualified 10th, two spots behind McLaughlin.

It made for a Fast Six final shootout that included Power, the Andretti Autosport pairing of Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean, as well as outgoing IndyCar champion Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and rookie Callum Ilott.

Power had no trouble and nipped Ilott by 0.0193 seconds in Ilott’s best career qualifying effort.

Rossi qualified third and was followed by Grosjean, Palou and O’Ward.

Colton Herta, the two-time defending race winner from pole, went off course and qualified 18th. It’s possible that Sunday marks Herta’s final IndyCar start for a while as the 22-year-old Californian is being courted by AlphaTauri in Formula One.

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey on the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed):


ROW 1

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:11.6127 (112.505)
2. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 01:11.6320 (112.475)

ROW 2

3. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:11.7698 (112.259)
4. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:11.7858 (112.234)

ROW 3

5. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:12.1625 (111.648)
6. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:12.4542 (111.199)

ROW 4

7. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:11.6295 (112.479)
8. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:11.6916 (112.381)

ROW 5

9. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:11.7285 (112.324)
10. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:12.1359 (111.689)

ROW 6

11. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:12.2808 (111.465)
12. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:12.8856 (110.540)

ROW 7

13. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:12.1722 (111.633)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:12.1442 (111.676)

ROW 8

15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:12.2661 (111.488)
16. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:12.2093 (111.576)

ROW 9

17. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:12.4299 (111.236)
18. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:12.2720 (111.479)

ROW 10

19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:12.5970 (110.980)
20. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:12.2996 (111.436)

ROW 11

21. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:12.8366 (110.615)
22. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:12.4489 (111.207)

ROW 12

23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:13.4172 (109.740)
24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:12.8001 (110.670)

ROW 13

25. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
26. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, 01:13.5181 (109.589)

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).