After a recent run of bad luck, Alex Palou has reset his focus on the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series championship. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver flexed his muscle on Saturday, earning his first career pole at Portland. After an engine issue at Indianapolis (27th) and getting taken out in a crash at Gateway (20th) Palou lost his commanding lead in the points standings. With the pole award today, he gained another valuable point as the final three races of the season commence.
Joining Palou on the front row is another very hungry driver in Alexander Rossi. The Andretti Autosport driver is having a miserable season for the second straight year and would love to snap his winless streak on Sunday. Scott Dixon still has his seventh championship trophy in sight and will start behind his teammate in 3rd for tomorrow’s race. He will be joined in Row 2 by former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, as the Arrow McLaren SP driver was the fastest Chevrolet in qualifying.
Qualification Results for the Grand Prix of Portland
Graham Rahal had his best qualifying performance of the season and will start 5th. The driver to his outside will be Colton Herta, who qualified on pole, led 36 laps, and finished 4th the last time the series was here. Championship points leader Pato O’Ward qualified 7th in what was a great day for the Arrow McLaren SP team. Ed Jones also had a brilliant performance, qualifying 8th for tomorrow’s race. Oliver Askew and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten qualifiers on Saturday.
It was an odd qualifying session as Jones, Askew, Max Chilton, and James Hinchcliffe all outperformed the four Team Penske cars. Will Power starts 14th, Scott McLaughlin 15th, Josef Newgarden 18th, and Simon Pagenaud starts 26th. That is not great news for Newgarden as he heads into the weekend as the favorite to win the championship when the season concludes in three weeks at Long Beach.
There were several drivers that had trouble staying on track during the first practice session. Some drivers didn’t have the opportunity to even turn many laps, as engine issues plagued many teams on Saturday. Rinus VeeKay, Takuma Sato, and Ryan Hunter-Reay all had mechanical trouble in practice. Hunter-Reay’s tough luck continued, as he was unable to participate in qualifying.
There are ten drivers racing this weekend that have never driven at Portland, but two rookies, in particular, looked strong on Saturday. Callum Ilott is making his series debut this weekend with Juncos Hollinger Racing, who will be together for these final three races of the season. He qualified 19th and Jimmie Johnson was 23rd in qualifying and strong in the final practice session.
The race distance is 110 laps, which is 216.04 miles around the 1.964-mile 12-turn road course. Herta won the pole for the last race in 2019, and Power is the defending race winner.
Coverage for the Grand Prix of Portland begins at 3 PM ET on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar