Alex Palou rebounds for first career IndyCar pole in Portland Grand Prix qualifying
Alex Palou rebounded from a two-race stumble in the NTT IndyCar Series, capturing the pole position for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
It’s the first career pole for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who outqualified Alexander Rossi (second) and teammate Scott Dixon (third).
“It feels amazing; I’m super happy my first pole in IndyCar,” Palou told NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast. “It’s the best start of the weekend we can have and the No. 10 car was really good so really happy about that. We know we have a really fast car and can not wait for tomorrow’s race.”
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Felix Rosenqvist (fourth), Graham Rahal (fifth) and Colton Herta (sixth) also reached the Fast Six third round of qualifying.
After being crashed in the prior race, Palou fell out of a points lead that once stretched to 42 points. The misfortune continued with a wreck of his No. 10 Dallara-Honda in a Saturday morning practice, but he rebounded to beat Rossi on his final run of qualifying.
“It obviously motivates us, but we were already fully motivated,” Palou said of consecutive DNFs at World Wide Technology Raceway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (where his engine failed). “We all know the last two race weekends we had were out of our team’s control. We’re fully laser-focused for these three races that we have to get that championship home.”
Palou and Dixon both are chasing new points leader Pato O’Ward, who qualified seventh Saturday.
“It’s not too bad; our pace on reds was horrendous,” O’Ward told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “We made a significant step forward this Q2. Unlucky that it wasn’t enough to go into the Fast Six, but we can do a lot from here. We’re starting inside of Row 4, and we just need to stay out of trouble from Turn 1 and do our race. It is what it is.
“The guys I’m fighting are in front of me, so I need to pass them.”
Another title contender stunningly will start 11 spots behind O’Ward.
After turning the fifth-fastest lap in the Saturday morning practice, Newgarden was eliminated after the first round with the ninth-fastest time in Group 2. The Team Penske driver, who is 20 points behind O’Ward in pursuit of his third championship, will start 18th of 27 drivers.
“I don’t know; we just didn’t have any pace,” Newgarden told Lee. “Wasn’t a bad lap, just wasn’t fast. I don’t know. I’m not sure. We’ve got a lot of fight so we’ll fight back.
“I was really happy this morning. I’m not quite sure why we didn’t have the speed there, we just didn’t. We’ll battle tomorrow for sure. Definitely odd.”
Teammate Will Power also failed to advance from the first round as all four Penske drivers qualified outside the top 12.
O’Ward barely squeaked through the first round of qualifying, advancing by posting the sixth-fastest time of Group 1. Romain Grosjean was the first driver eliminated in seventh.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is in his final three races with Andretti Autosport, missed the qualifying session because of an electrical problems that allowed him to complete only 11 laps in practice. The team also changed an engine, which will drop Hunter-Reay to the 27th and last starting position.
Because of grid penalties for engine changes, Rinus VeeKay (25th) and Takuma Sato (26th) also will start from the rear.