A surprise pole winner capped what can only be described as a wild, chaotic opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After two fairly calm practice sessions, qualifying was anything but. When the dust settled, it was Romain Grosjean who earned his first career pole in the NTT IndyCar Series. The former Formula One driver will lead the field to the green flag on Saturday, with Josef Newgarden joining him on the front row.
The Firestone Fast Six was full of surprise contenders, including Jack Harvey and Alex Palou, who will start from Row 2 tomorrow. Scott McLaughlin was the other rookie in the Fast Six while Conor Daly earned his first trip to the Fast Six in what was a solid day for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Qualification Results for the GMR Grand Prix
Row 4 features his teammate Rinus VeeKay and another young star in Colton Herta. It was announced earlier in the day that the second-generation driver has signed a two-year extension with Andretti Autosport.
This was only the third qualifying session for Grosjean, who was thrilled with his performance. “Amazing,” Grosjean said. “When I saw the first qualifying group I was in, I was like, ‘Oh, dear, if we can get out of the first group, we’re going to be OK,’ and we did. That last few laps, we were on it. What a day for us. I’m happier than I have been in a very long time.”
One challenge that the Frenchman will need to master before tomorrow’s race is rolling starts. Grosjean delivered the first pole for Dale Coyne Racing since 2018 and the first for Rick Ware Racing. In terms of open-wheel poles, this is the first for Grosjean since his GP2 racing days at Istanbul, Turkey in 2011.
While the Fast Six seemed full of surprises, several notable names will start further back in the field on Saturday. Will Power has won four poles on the IMS road course but he spun during the second round of qualifying and will start 12th. Scott Dixon won this race last year but failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying and starts 16th tomorrow. Pato O’Ward had high hopes entering the qualifying session but rolls off in the 18th starting spot.
Andretti Autosport’s struggles on the IMS road course continued on Friday. Alexander Rossi will start 14th in his No. 27 Honda while Ryan Hunter-Reay starts 19th. James Hinchcliffe drove in all three races on this circuit last year but is starting deep in the field in 22nd position.
Jimmie Johnson starts just behind Hinchcliffe in 23rd as he outperformed Dalton Kellett and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Montoya, who is back in an IndyCar for the first time since 2017. The legendary driver spun multiple times during qualifying and was struggling to get comfortable in the car. There are now 25 cars entered in the race, as Max Chilton and the Carlin Racing team were forced to withdraw after traveling issues prevented Chilton from arriving.
The race distance is 85 laps, which is 207.32 miles around the 2.439-mile 14-turn road course. Dixon won the first race on the IMS road course last year while Penke teammates Newgarden and Power won the last two races here in October. Power is also the defending pole winner.
Coverage for the GMR Grand Prix begins at 2 PM ET on NBC.