Colton Herta on Pole at Portland

The penultimate race was supposed to be all about the championship contenders. Expectations were that the top four or five drivers were going to battle it out for the extra point for winning the NTT P1 Award. Instead, it was that familiar 19-year old rookie Colton Herta that stole the show. The Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver put his No. 88 Honda on pole for the second time this season, with a blistering 57.8111 second lap.

Herta has been fastest in practice all weekend and outperformed legends Will Power and Scott Dixon in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Power flat-spotted his tires during his final run, and Dixon himself had a slight bobble that kept him from earning his first pole since the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Jack Harvey had a sensational qualifying session and will start on the outside of Row 2 tomorrow. Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay will share Row 3. None of the top three drivers in the championship standings qualified inside the top six.

Qualification Results for the Grand Prix of Portland

Alexander Rossi missed the Fast Six by 0.0277 seconds and will start 7th tomorrow, with podcast partner James Hinchcliffe by his side. Hinchcliffe’s teammate this weekend is a familiar face as well, as Conor Daly qualified just behind him in 9th position. Spencer Pigot earned a solid top ten starting position for ECR. Zach Veach and Sebastien Bourdais will start from Row 6. Simon has finished on the podium the last five races here, dating back to his days in CART.

Championship points leader Josef Newgarden will start 13th tomorrow. He failed to advance from the opening round of qualifying, as did his teammate Simon Pagenaud, who is 2nd in the standings, just 38 points behind Josef. Pagenaud also failed to advance but wasn’t even close to moving on as he qualified in 18th. Santino Ferrucci may have had high expectations entering this weekend but the rookie struggled and will start 14th tomorrow.

It has been a rough weekend for RLL Racing. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato qualified 15th and 17th respectively. Sato won last weekend at Gateway, and won this race last year.

The race distance is 105 laps, which is 206.22 miles around the 1.964-mile 12-turn permanent road course. Power won the pole for last year’s race, and Sato is the defending race winner.

Coverage for the Grand Prix of Portland begins at 3 PM ET on NBC.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

COLTON HERTA: “I am so happy! We left it right until the end, so everyone was all tense and I think that made it much sweeter. Before I knew we won the pole position I went on the radio and heard everyone cheering, so to find out that way was really cool. This is awesome. We have really great race pace, so I think we can take the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda car to victory lane!”

WILL POWER: “The lockup screwed me. Flat spotted the tire. Any left-handers, you really paid for it. But still happy to be P2 in the Verizon Chevy.  It was my fault for not warming the brakes a bit more.  It is tough when you have to pump them out straight-away. P2 – you can definitely win from there.  We need a win. We will go for it tomorrow. Colton owes me a win from COTA so maybe he will let me go.”

SCOTT DIXON: “Honestly the biggest struggle we had was going from set to set of tires and making the adjustments. We nearly got knocked out of the second qualifying segment. We had some additional understeer later on in the runs. Obviously, we have a good starting spot and the top three in the championship aren’t up there with us, so we have to make the most out of every point we can grab tomorrow from them in the race with PNC Bank car.”

JACK HARVEY: “We are a part-time team, so to get into the Firestone Fast Six, it’s a really great accomplishment for everyone at Meyer Shank Racing. We have learned some really great things this weekend and we have progressed really well and the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM car has been fast. We had a good race brewing here last year, but a yellow flag hurt us. We put ourselves in a good position to try to replicate last year’s race. I’m proud of what this team has achieved and hopefully we can finish a couple of spots better tomorrow and end up on the podium.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST: “It was a tough and close qualifying session. Every stage there was just thousandths of a second separating everyone. I didn’t really feel 100 percent with the car and with my driving. It didn’t feel like we had a pole car in the NTT DATA Honda, but we have a great starting spot to get to the podium.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “I think we had a pretty good day all-in-all. We made some gains in the car going into qualifying. In Group 1, we were up there in the front and then in Round 2 we advanced to the (Firestone) Fast Six, so that was good. In the Fast Six, we thought just for the sake of being different, rolling the dice and trying to go for a strategy that was different than the others and went for (Firestone) black primaries. It wasn’t the flavor of choice this afternoon. The other five in the Fast Six were all on the (Firestone) Reds. We were kind of the sitting duck on Blacks. It is what it is and we tried to go for it. Tomorrow the DHL team is going to put forth 110 percent and go for the win.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI: “We made some changes ahead of the second session. We wouldn’t have made those changes if we didn’t think it was the right decision to get us in to the Firestone Fast Six. I think missing out on advancing is an indication to how close the NTT IndyCar Series is and you have got to nail it every lap of every session. We missed it but we will get after tonight and make the car better.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Honestly I’m pretty disappointed with eighth. I think we had a lot more in the No. 5 Arrow car. That second set of red tires [Firestone alternates] had way more understeer than we were expecting. The balance was a little better in the first round… we even added front wing to try to take care of it, but the fronts just didn’t hold on for us. With how close the times are, you have to be absolutely perfect. We set our best time on Lap 3, the tires were definitely better on Lap 2, so it was just getting used to the handling of the car. Unfortunate, but we can certainly race from there.”

CONOR DALY: “I am honestly just super happy. This has been a tough battle for me obviously getting used to this car and the track. I think we can be super proud of that. The Arrow SPM engineers worked with me on making the car more suitable for me and the way I prefer to drive. It’s a team effort, this game, and we’re in the top 10 which is awesome. I’m just really thrilled to be a part of this operation this weekend and I can’t wait for the race.”

SPENCER PIGOT: “We definitely made some improvements today and had our best session of the weekend during qualifying. All of the practice sessions were tough, but it’s encouraging we moved in the right direction when it counted. We still have a few things we want to improve on and get better at, but overall we are pleased with where we will be starting.”

MARCO ANDRETTI: “It’s like we have been just on the wrong side of that tenth of a second that put us out. The whole field is so competitive and the times are just so tight. The lap time that I did [in Round 1, Group 2] was actually faster than some of the [Firestone] Fast Six times [from Round 2]. We are just on the wrong side of that tenth. We’ll have some work to do with the Oberto Circle K car tomorrow, but we’ll fight hard and work to gain some spots.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “We were working a P2 qualifying lap when we had a fuel issue. We’re not sure what caused it, but it wasn’t engine-related. The No. 18 SealMaster Honda had good pace. The guys did a good job. We had a Firestone Fast Six car. Things happen, that’s racing. We’ll get after it tomorrow, do the best we can and get the best result possible.”

MAX CHILTON: “We obviously aren’t happy with our qualifying result today for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. It’s difficult because I felt like my fast lap was one of the best laps I’d done in a long time. The car felt really strong and I was honestly surprised when they told me where we’d ended up. We just need to have a look tonight at all of the data and try to find what’s missing and what we need to do work our way to the front tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI: “Qualifying went well but we just didn’t have enough in our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda today. We’re trying really hard, but the margins are so small here between all cars and we didn’t have what it takes to move into the next round. We’ll start from 14th and just have to pass some cars. Our race cars have normally been good all year, so I’m not too worried about it for tomorrow.”

ED JONES: “It is a disappointing qualifying result, for sure. We had expected to be much higher up and it’s surprising how it ended up. We will definitely have our work out for us tomorrow, but hopefully we can have a good strategy and get back towards the other end of the field.”

TONY KANAAN: “It’s kind of bittersweet because if you look at the lap times, we’re only a tenth-and-a-half from the top 12. That’s the closest we’ve been all year. We improved the car a lot but it’s that little bit. I’m happy because the boys did everything right, we timed qualifying right to have the right tire choice. We went quicker than we went in the morning, so it was a step in the right direction. I’m excited. I think we’re coming from a great momentum, everybody’s uplifted (from Gateway) and I’m excited for tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL: “I’m disappointed with our qualifying result for sure. I don’t think Max or I like being 20th or 22nd, but I’d say we’ve gotten more competitive over the course of the weekend. I really appreciate all of the work the (No.) 23 Carlin crew has put in, especially getting me back up to speed with turning right and making the No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet better and better every session. We definitely have more to show for tomorrow. We were able to come from 25th to seventh last year, so I’m confident we can go from 22nd to the top 10 again this year. It’s just going to come down to smart strategy calls and good speed when we need it.”

MATHEUS LEIST: “Practice 3 was actually decent and gave us some direction and some things to think about. In qualifying I think my black tire pace was pretty good, but we didn’t have a good run on the reds and that was it. We’re going to work on the reds (setup) for tomorrow and see if we can have a good race.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I knew it was going to be tough. You just can’t make a mistake and I made a couple of them there. I got wide on the curb coming off of (Turn) 7 and probably dropped a tenth (of a second) on one lap and dropped another tenth on the final corner on the next. It was going to be close, and you just can’t afford a tenth. That’s Portland – that’s how it was last year. I knew it was going to be the same way this year, but our Hitachi Chevy is good. It was fast all weekend and Chevy has done a great job. We’ve just got to race hard.”

SIMON PAGENAUD: “We just don’t have the speed – we lacked a little bit of speed there in qualifying. It’s about putting the lap together and I think it was very difficult to do so. It’s a shame. You don’t want to be here but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to fight your way and we’ll fight strong in the race in the Menards Chevy. We’ve got a really good car on long runs. I’ve got a fantastic crew on the pit stops and an amazing strategist. Anything can happen – you saw it last year. You’ve just got to fight.”

GRAHAM RAHAL: “We go on about impeding progress and that’s a big thing in qualifying. The first lap, second lap maximum are where these tires are their best. To start my first flyer, I was six seconds behind him (Veach) and to finish it, I was under one second.  To be five seconds off on your first flyer is ridiculous and it killed our run.  And the lap was solid, it was a low nine (57.9), so I knew I had to finish it but then I was up his gearbox and that was it. I’m disappointed. On the blacks (primary tires) in particular, I thought our car was very good. I think we were less than a tenth off.  The One Cure machine is going to have some work to do tomorrow. I think our race car will be good though.”

TAKUMA SATO: “We tried to have a good qualifying (run) but it seems that we didn’t have enough speed to get into the next round. The field is extremely tight. We’re talking about two-hundredths of a second to make it to the next segment.  We thought we had quite a good car today so it’s a shame that we didn’t move on, but I feel very positive for the race. We will try to make tomorrow a good one.”

ZACH VEACH: “Qualifying was a pretty good session for us. This morning we made changes that we weren’t really happy with and ended up 16th. We unloaded in qualifying with a car that was much better and it just kept coming to us. I feel bad for the guys because we were on a lap that should have put us in the (Firestone) Fast Six. We were well past the point we needed to be at for the Fast Six, but I kept pushing for more and dropped the wheel and lost three or four tenths (of a second). It’s my fault that we are starting 11th when we have a car that should be starting in the top six or at least the top 10.”

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