Colton Herta on Pole at Nashville

After a wild day in Nashville, some people have concluded that Colton Herta might not be human. The Andretti Autosport driver has been a marvel to watch this weekend on the new street course and continued his brilliance today by earning pole position for Sunday’s race. Herta paced the field by nearly six-tenths of a second with his top lap of 1 minute, 13.6835 seconds in qualifying. This came on the heels of leading both practice sessions on the tricky 2.17-mile circuit.

“It was a good lap, but what we did in Q1 really helped us there, with being able to transfer on the black tires,” Herta said. “That was the biggest thing. Being fast on the blacks made it just a lot easier for the rest of the way. Great job by everybody. The car is fantastic, as you can see what we were able to do on the black (primary tire) laps compared to everybody. We were really in a league of our own. It felt amazing. Good car to take into the race tomorrow, too. Nice and stable.”

Qualification Results for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

This was the second pole for Herta this season and the sixth of his career. His last three poles have resulted in wins, which is a trend he hopes to continue on Sunday by winning the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Starting alongside Herta on the front row is another driver who is no stranger to winning. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon will be aiming for his second victory of the season on Sunday.

Dixon’s Ganassi teammate and current series points leader Alex Palou qualified third on Saturday but will start the race from ninth position after his six-place grid penalty for an engine change during a recent test session. That means Alexander Rossi will start on the inside of Row 2 tomorrow, behind his Andretti teammate. It has been 777 days since Rossi’s last victory. Felix Rosenqvist joins him on Row 2 in what was a much-needed result for the Arrow McLaren SP driver after a disappointing season to date.

Starting in Row 3 will be Romain Grosjean and Jack Harvey, two drivers who will likely be changing teams next season. Simon Pagenaud will start next to Palou with James Hinchcliffe rounding out the top ten qualifiers on Saturday. It was a valiant effort by the popular Canadian, who desperately needs some solid finishes to close the season.

Team Penske struggled on Saturday, although Josef Newgarden initially advanced to the Firestone Fast Six but was given a penalty after hitting the wall right at the end of the second session. The hometown favorite will start 12th tomorrow, just behind his teammate Will Power. Scott McLaughlin will roll off 23rd tomorrow evening.

“I was just trying to make up the deficit from yesterday and today,” Newgarden said. “Pretty pumped for tomorrow. Just wish we were a little higher up. Trying to claw some performance there and just over-pushed. You can’t wreck and not get penalized. That’s on me. That’s how it works.”

Graham Rahal was another driver that found the wall on Saturday, putting a wrinkle in the RLL Racing plans. Three more veterans – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, and Sebastien Bourdais all struggled as well and will start 14th, 15th, and 16th respectively. The Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay had a disappointing day as well as they start 20th and 22nd on Sunday.

The race distance is 80 laps, which is 173.6 miles around the 2.17-mile 11-turn street circuit. The last driver to win an inaugural race was Power, who won the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2011. The last driver to win the season championship after winning an inaugural event was Dario Franchitti in 2007 at Iowa.

Coverage for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix begins at 5:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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