Will Power on Pole at GMR Grand Prix

It was a wild Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but one thing remained true to form. The NTT IndyCar Series began just the second event of the 2020 season, the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Between the 90-minute practice session and all of qualifying, it was anyone’s guess as to how qualifying would shake out. Not surprisingly though, it was Will Power that once again claimed pole position for Team Penske. On the final lap during the Firestone Fast Six, Power put down a monster lap of 1:10.1779 to take the top spot away from Jack Harvey.

This is the 58th career pole for Power, who has won each of the three previous times that he qualified on pole for this race. While Penske has dominated at IMS in every facet, it was nearly the first career pole for Harvey and the Meyer Shank Racing operation. Harvey earned a podium finish in this race last year, and team co-owner Michael Shank has a busy weekend of racing between here and the IMSA race at Daytona tomorrow night.

Qualification Results for the GMR Grand Prix

Young phenom Colton Herta had an outstanding afternoon, and qualified 3rd for tomorrow’s race. Joining him in Row 2 will be Graham Rahal, who had a much-needed tremendous day. The RLL Racing driver has had some impressive drives through the field during this event, but now he finally gets to start at the front of the field. Rookie Oliver Askew and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden rounded out the Fast Six on Friday.

Scott Dixon won the opening race of the season at Texas, but has his sights set on a victory on the IMS road course. It has eluded him, but he has been extremely close, finishing runner-up in each of the last three years. He will start alongside Conor Daly in Row 4, as the hometown driver made a solid debut with his new team, Ed Carpenter Racing. Rounding out the top ten in qualifying was last year’s pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist, and Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton, who is making his season debut.

Earlier in the day the speedway showed off all of the improvements they have made so far this year.

Row 6 features a pair of hungry Andretti Autosport teammates. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both had issues starting the race at Texas, and desperately need a solid result. The former Indianapolis 500 winners will have some work to do tomorrow. James Hinchcliffe is making his second start this year in his reunion with Andretti, but will start 19th on Saturday. Hunter-Reay had a rough outing on Saturday, going off course at the start of qualifying, and having an even bigger problem during practice earlier in the day when he didn’t see Santino Ferruci in his mirrors. The former series champion apologized to Ferruci after the session.

The biggest surprise on Saturday happened to be the driver starting next to Hinchcliffe in Row 10. Defending race winner Simon Pagenaud did not have much luck during qualifying and will start the race from 20th position. As bad as that outlook may be, he has won here three times, and did so after starting in 8th position a year ago. Look for Team Penske to incorporate some clever strategy to get Simon to the front of the field tomorrow.

The race distance is 80 laps, which is 195.12 miles around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at Indianapolis. Felix Rosenqvist won the pole for last year’s race, and Simon Pagenaud is the defending race winner.

Coverage for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix begins at 12 PM ET on NBC. The event will be followed by the NASCAR Xfinity series race on the same road course. The Cup series will run the Brickyard 400 on Sunday. News broke Friday evening that seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will not be able to participate in the race on Sunday, after testing positive for the coronavirus. Justin Allgaier will replace Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet on Sunday, and his IndyCar test with Chip Ganassi’s team scheduled for next week has been postponed.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

WILL POWER: “We left nothing on the table in that lap in the Verizon Chevrolet. I knew that (Jack) Harvey had a pretty good time up there, so we put our best set on for the last run, and I just gave it my all. Fortunately, it was enough. But man, the heat. I just want to jump into an ice bath right now, I’m so bloody hot! We don’t need to be trying to get out first. If you’re thinking of that, you’re going to make a mistake, or I don’t need to be thinking about winning. You just need to be thinking about what you’re really good at, which is for me, driving; and for the crew the stops that they’ve done thousands of. We’ve all had a chat, and we all understand that. That’s how we’re going to win a championship.”

JACK HARVEY: “Mega effort by the entire Meyer Shank Racing crew to put the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda on the front row for the GMR Grand Prix. We did well in practice this morning and we have been working really hard to be competitive, and I felt that we were going to have good pace during qualifying. This is the best we have done as a team. The No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda has been great. The car has great straight-line speed, and we have the pace that we need to carry into the race. The car is very strong on both the black and red sets of Firestone tires. We are so optimistic to follow that into tomorrow and have another successful day.”

COLTON HERTA: “We made a really good leap from practice; we weren’t super special but all right, just outside of the top 10. We made some good changes to the Gleaners Food Bank Honda. I love qualifying around here and I love being in Indy, so its super special to be on the second row of the grid for the second year in a row. I’m hoping we get a good result out of it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL: “It was a good end to our first day here at the GMR Grand Prix with qualifying. We’ll start fourth, so it’s a really good run for us in the Fifth Third Bank team. The guys did a great job. We had a really good lap in Round 2 to get us into Round 3 and then in Q3 we had one going that was just a hair better, but it still ended up being our best lap. All in all, I’m happy with P4. We can go race from there; we can do a good job from there. Honda has done an amazing job; you could see it. The other guys (Takuma and Spencer) didn’t have the luck we did today in getting through, but they will have a good day tomorrow. We’re pretty pleased with today.”

OLIVER ASKEW: “Today was more than we could have asked for, honestly. The goal was to move on from Round One of qualifying, but once I felt the car was capable of competing in the Firestone Fast Six, it was game on. The guys at Arrow McLaren SP did a really good job of making the right changes between practice and qualifying. It comes down to that and being able to put down your theoretical best lap together by not making mistakes. Everyone sees how close it is out there in lap times. I felt really good out there, and these are the days I love about racing, when you feel connected with the car and you don’t have to think about it. It just all comes together naturally. Really happy with today.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “We couldn’t really get going there on that lap. I came out of the pits and had a huge lockup to start the lap on the first corner. I’m not sure. It snuck up on me and hasn’t done that all day. I’m sure I have an influence on why that happened, but not 100 percent positive why we got such an aggressive lock-up. We had one lap on the tires ready to go just like Will (Power). I thought we were getting better all session but were a little bit behind him all day. We definitely need to work on our pace, and I felt like we were getting there. You come to this track, and you don’t see the separation of people on track. Everyone is just kind of the same speed. There’s definitely people that shine. Obviously Will and Simon (Pagenaud) have been very good here, but it doesn’t separate people out, so you’re all clumped together. Team Chevy has worked with us all session, and we were pulling forward; they were giving us a little more each time. I think we can still have a good show with XPEL tomorrow and go for a win.”

SCOTT DIXON: “We went through a bit of an aero experiment. We tried some different things up and down on downforce between the black and red tire runs. I don’t think we nailed it maybe as best as we could have, but on the red tires we were pretty good. We were definitely pretty close, though, with the PNC Bank car, and maybe some of the guys we didn’t think would have been up there ended up being up there to challenge. It will make for an interesting race tomorrow, for sure.”

CONOR DALY: “We felt like we had a lot of grip on the red tires. For some reason, there’s a big difference in tires for us. On the blacks, the car just doesn’t quite come in the way I like it. As soon as we put on reds, I can really get on it, even on Lap 1. We have to try and bring those balances a little closer together for tomorrow, but I’m super pumped. We’ve got the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, all of us here together for the first time at Ed Carpenter Racing, this is a great start. We’re right in the fight, starting eighth. That’s all we want – a chance to be up there and get good points at the end of the day.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST: “P9 is not terrible, but not great, obviously, and not where we were looking to be. I thought the car felt good, but it wasn’t so quick, which is always a bit perplexing. So, we will have to go back and just look where we lost time. I felt like I should’ve put a good lap there in the end, and that was only good for P9. It’s a long race tomorrow, so we have any chance to have a good result in the NTT DATA Honda.”

MAX CHILTON: “All in all, I’d say it was a pretty decent day for us. We were up front quite a bit in practice this morning, and then we dropped down and ended up 18th toward the end of the session, but I knew we were quicker than that for qualifying. Surprisingly I came in from my final run in the first round of qualifying and was having a hard time finding myself on the time sheets and then realized I was up in P2 and moving onto the second round with the rest of the top 12. We went out in the second round and the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet was really good, but I didn’t really drive to the grip levels because I was worried about the temperature. I went out and did what I’d done before but tidied it up on the first lap on reds. Then on the second lap, I went out thinking there was no way I was going to go any quicker, so let’s just over-drive it and see what we can do and ended up actually going quicker. Unfortunately, I think it just proved that I didn’t get the most out of the first lap, but that does prove that Gallagher Chevrolet is quicker than where we are, so hopefully we’ll have a good day tomorrow and move quickly through the field to the front.”

MARCO ANDRETTI: “I guess we shot ourselves in the foot. We had good pace – I bottomed and fired it off for Lap 1, and then we didn’t leave ourselves time for Lap 2. We just didn’t have time to cover for something like that. But we did have pace, so hoping to build on that tomorrow.”

MARCUS ERICSSON: “Obviously a bit disappointing to just miss out on advancing in qualifying. I think we had a really good car and finished P3 in practice today. In qualifying, the car was really good, as well, but as you know in qualifying and every session, it’s just extremely tight here in INDYCAR. We just missed out, though, and we think there was a bit more there. I think we have a good Huski Chocolate Honda for the race tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI: “The Mouser Molex Honda was still really good; I just didn’t get the front tires to where I wanted them for the first half of the lap. I think we have a good race car, but qualifying did not go the way we hoped for coming off P2 in practice. Unfortunately, it’s basically a one-lap qualifying, and I just missed advancing by about a tenth and a half, which is definitely something to work on.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “We’re obviously starting a little further back than we’d like to be. The first session was a kind of a baptism by fire, trying to get up to speed with how the team operates and how the car behaves a little differently than I’m used to. I haven’t turned right since September, so a bit of a catch up there. The team did a good job preparing the car, just working at putting it all together on a hot, greasy track. We made a bunch of changes after practice, and you only have two laps on blacks to figure it out before you put on the reds. It’s a tough deal, for sure, but tomorrow is a long race, and I know we are just going to keep getting better every time we get in the car.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “We had a pretty good car all day – very competitive. We just tried to be proactive and made a few tweaks on the car in that last outing in the top 12. It just tipped the rear over a little bit, and I started to drive defensively trying to keep the rear in check. Hopefully we can put it together tomorrow. The DHL car is quick; it has promise to it.”

SAGE KARAM: “It was a big INDYCAR first for the DRR crew and I on the IMS road course. So we’ll take P23 in qualifying in our initial day on the track. We are chipping away at it and getting stronger each run. We had a small car issue in practice when we stalled on the track. But we got it back quickly, and I was able to finish the practice session. We are going to have to work some magic in the race tomorrow, but I’m feeling good! Thank you to all the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing WIX Filters boys for the continued hard work.”

DALTON KELLETT: “First INDYCAR qualifying is in the books. What better place to do it than at Indianapolis? This is the track that means a lot to me and means a lot to the team – all their history here – so I can’t think of somewhere better to have that great first experience. It’s definitely been a learning day without having a lot of testing in the offseason, given the big break and all that. Just trying to go hard right off the bat on the Firestone reds. It’s pretty tough and definitely something that I’m going to have to learn and get better at as the season progresses. But I think we’ll be reviewing the day, looking at the onboard between the 14 and the 4 cars and seeing what we can learn from that and make improvements for tomorrow’s race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL: “Honestly, pretty disappointed. It was not the result that anyone at AJ Foyt Racing wants, not anything that the No. 4 car wanted, but I still have a huge amount of faith in the team, the guys, the engineers tonight. Headed into the engineering office, we’re going to work on it, look through all the data, talk about previous experiences here plus what tomorrow’s going to bring strategy-wise, weather-wise. It’s supposed to be another hot one tomorrow, so that changes a little bit with what we do, but I have every bit of confidence that come warmup tomorrow morning the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet will be faster. And then in the race we’ll roll some strategy dice and hopefully end up inside the top 10.”

PATO O’WARD: “We were just outside of getting into the Fast 12 and competing for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six. The No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet is super-fast, and I think we showed that at times throughout the day. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race and making my way to the front. Congrats to my teammate, Oliver, for qualifying fifth and make sure to watch us both tomorrow on NBC at noon ET.”

SIMON PAGENAUD: “I said this morning we felt pretty good, and I think the adjustment we made went in the wrong direction. It comes down to downforce. If you decide to run less downforce when you let that rear wing down, there’s a lot of speed. I think we might have to do that tomorrow with the Menards Chevy. We’ll see. I thought the tire degradation rate was low, so that might help us to make that decision.”

ALEX PALOU: “I’m disappointed with my qualifying result today. When we first went out on the primary Firestone tire we were really good and were sitting P3 before going back out on the reds for our final lap. I had traffic on the out lap, like everybody, but I was not able to get the tires up to where they needed to be, so I didn’t have enough grip on my final lap and that’s why our result wasn’t so good. It’s all part of the learning experience, I guess. However, I’m happy with the first run we did, and I’m also encouraged for tomorrow because I believe we have a strong car for the race and that’s when it counts the most.”

SPENCER PIGOT: “Overall, the day wasn’t too bad. I think we made some good adjustments and changes throughout the first practice. Qualifying was just really tricky; it was super-hot. It was easy to miss a little bit of time. I think we have a pretty solid car. It was pretty good on blacks (primary Firestone tires) and on reds. We just missed it a little bit. Hopefully tomorrow we can make a few more changes in warmup and have a good debut race for everyone at RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI: “I don’t think we’ve ever been super-strong around here, so I think 11th is about par for the course for us, unfortunately. We’re trying some different things. We had a pretty disjointed practice this morning, so I think this is a pretty decent result considering some of the issues we had to overcome. It’s going to be a long, hot day tomorrow, but I think we have some team cars that are pretty strong. We’ll look at that tonight and see what we can come up with for the warmup.”

TAKUMA SATO: “It was a tough one. Starting off, I thought the car was pretty good. I thought we were hovering on position three or four on the black tires, and then I put the red on and just didn’t get any bite with it; the car started to slide. And the grip wasn’t there as expected, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to improve the time a lot and ended up 17th. But Graham (Rahal) did a great job and had a great qualifying. We’ll go have a look and compare data to see what we can do, and hopefully all three of us will be strong for the race.”

ZACH VEACH: “Qualifying was disappointing. We started practice with a car that we weren’t really confident in. We made really good changes between practice and qualifying. The car felt reasonable. I just think we made a mistake with the brakes for our fastest lap, for whatever reason leaving on the reds. No matter how good the car actually felt, I couldn’t get into the brake zone very well, so that unfortunately cost us. We will work our way forward tomorrow. As a team, I think we’ve always struggled here. We’ve had good race cars, just struggled with qualifying speed as a whole. I think tomorrow will be good for us by the end of it, just going to be a lot of work until then.”

RINUS VEEKAY: “It was a tough first qualifying in INDYCAR. We had a pretty good first run on blacks, then went to reds. I anticipated having two flying laps, but at the end of my first one I caught the checkered. It’s a bummer. I think there was more time the car if we’d had a second lap. We’re starting 18th, which isn’t where we wanted to be, but we’ll make the best of it.”

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