Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden scored his second IndyCar P1 pole award of the season, clocking a time of 1:45.5191 at Road America in the hills of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The defending NTT IndyCar series champion saved his fastest lap until the very end, beating out Jack Harvey by two-tenths of a second in the closely-matched field.
As has been the case all year, the pole time was approximately three seconds off the pace of last year’s top time. This can be directly attributed to the Aeroscreen, which has added weight and drag to the cars this season, in addition to causing the drivers extra discomfort in the form of reduced airflow into the cockpit.
All throughout the session, drivers dealt with problems with rear grip around the undulating 4.05-mile course. Tire degradation was a problem last year, and seems to be the case again this year.
Many of today’s fastest times were set on the softer, red-walled tires, but the black-walled tires will likely be the preferred tire throughout the 55-lap race to help the driver’s keep pace through a full fuel run.
Qualifying had a modified format today, with no knockout sessions in place. Instead, the drivers were split into two groups as usual but the times from those groups set the grid order directly.
The fastest driver, in this case Newgarden from group two, lines up on pole, then the fastest from the other group sits on the outside of the front row. The drivers from group two earned themselves the rest of the odd-numbered positions, and group one the rest of the even spots.
The same format will be in place for the qualifying session tomorrow, allowing teams proper preparation time before the second race in the double-header.
The group assignments were set by alternating the practice times from earlier in the day, as per usual, but there was more consequence to this than usual as many of the top drivers were placed in the same group.
Three drivers from Team Penske, three from Andretti Autosport, and two from Chip Ganassi Racing all were assigned the second group, resulting in a slightly more mixed up grid than usual.
Last year’s rookie pole winner Colton Herta will start seventh in the first round of the double-header and Alexander Rossi, who dominated the entire race in 2019, will have to climb through the field from 11th if he wants to repeat his performance.
Race one from Road America starts in short order, with the green flag dropping on the 55-lap race at 17:00 EDT (22:00 BST).