Colton Herta wins IndyCar pole position again at Laguna Seca; Alex Palou fourth
Colton Herta won his second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series pole position at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, outqualifying teammate Alexander Rossi as Andretti Autosport Hondas swept the front row Saturday.
Will Power qualified third in the No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet, followed by points leader Alex Palou and Oliver Askew, who made the Fast Six for only the second time in his career and in his second start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
It was the series-leading third pole position of the season for Herta’s No. 26 Dallara-Honda, which led the most laps in its previous two starts from first (including a victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg).
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Herta’s pole-winning time came on his third and final qualifying lap around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course during the Fast Six session.
“I’m glad we ended up doing three because I guess two wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “I really got to nail that third lap. The Gainbridge car was awesome, awesome being powered by Honda. What an amazing track. I love this place so much. Two for two for poles here.”
Herta led 83 of 90 laps in his 2019 victory at Laguna Seca. His father, Bryan, also qualified first at Laguna Seca in 1997 and won at the track in ’98 and ’99 (and now serves as Colton’s strategist).
"I know @MarioAndretti was sitting on the pit stand. I'm sure he's really happy about me taking a pole away from @12WillPower."— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 18, 2021
@ColtonHerta grabbed his pole position at the last second and will lead the field to Green tomorrow.
#INDYCAR // #FirestoneGP // @WeatherTechRcwy pic.twitter.com/tkgAPfc2qm
Pato O’Ward, who trails Palou by 25 points entering Sunday’s race, qualified sixth as only two championship contenders made the final round of qualifying.
O’Ward avoided damage to his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet after spinning during the final round of qualifying.
“This was our maximization,” O’Ward said. “The best we did in practice was 20th just because we were all over the place. We didn’t really have the balance correctly, and I’m happy with sixth. Fifth obviously, would have been better, but I was pushing just to try to get every ounce out of the car.
“We made it to the Fast Six, which seemed kind of like a long haul for us going into qualifying, but we accomplished it. So, I’m happy with the changes that we made. Now we need to make the race car go faster and see what we can do in the race.”
Palou’s spin also had an impact on Power, who lost his quickest lap (which would have been second) because of a ruling he didn’t slow down for the local yellow in the Corkscrew turn.
After frustrating results in practice, @PatricioOWard is happy to be starting P6 tomorrow in the #FirestoneGP.— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 18, 2021
He's been pushing all weekend. One day left to challenge those limits.
#INDYCAR // @WeatherTechRcwy // @ArrowMcLarenSP pic.twitter.com/I08EDckU16
Josef Newgarden, who topped practice Friday, will start 17th after being eliminated in first-round qualifying for the second consecutive week. The Team Penske driver trails Palou by 34 points.
“Obviously, not the result we were looking for,” Newgarden said. “We showed good pace yesterday and were on the right path this morning, but we just missed in qualifying. Unfortunate as we’ve made things more difficult for ourselves. Regardless, we’re focused on doing everything we can to move forward and we’ll be ready to get to work tomorrow.”
Marcus Ericsson (75 points behind) and Scott Dixon (49) qualified together on the fourth row as the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers tried to maintain long-shot title bids to catch their teammate Palou.