Herta Earns Grand Prix of Portland Pole, Top 3 In Championship Fail To Make Fast 6

It was a wild day once again at the Portland International Raceway. Last year, we saw the championship favorites in the NTT IndyCar Series struggle in the Grand Prix of Portland. This year, it’s looking like we could be in store for another crazy race.

Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi enter this weekend’s race blanketed by 40 points amongst the trio. They sit 1-2-3 in the standings. What if I told you though that neither of them made it to the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday afternoon?

Rossi, will start the best among them in seventh. He pointed blame on their end for making changes in the wrong direction to his No. 27 Honda.

“We made some changes ahead of the second session,” Rossi said. “We wouldn’t have made those changes if we didn’t think it was the right decision to get us in to the Firestone Fast Six. I think missing out on advancing is an indication to how close the NTT IndyCar Series is and you have got to nail it every lap of every session. We missed it but we will get after tonight and make the car better.”

Despite that though, he narrowly missed a Fast Six appearance by just 0.0277-seconds.

For Newgarden and Pagenaud, neither of the Team Penske drivers made it out of the first round even. Newgarden, will start 13th in his No. 2 Chevrolet for his worst starting spot since the INDYCAR Grand Prix. That’s a race that he would finish 15th at. Furthermore, out of the six qualifying rounds on natural road courses in 2019, Newgarden has failed to make the Fast Six in four of those races.

Pagenaud, rolls off 18th himself for his worst starting spot since Road America (16th). His starting spots on natural road courses this year are 22nd, 14th, eighth, 16th, fourth and now 18th respectively.

Their teammate though in Will Power barely missed out on the pole in his No. 12 Chevrolet. Power, turned in a lap of 57.8303-seconds to earn the second starting spot for Sunday’s race. He’s now had five straight top five starting spots this season and a Fast Six appearance on five of the six natural road course tracks.

Power says that if he didn’t lock up his brakes on his first flier in the Fast Six, a 58th career Indy Car pole was waiting for him.

“The lockup screwed me,” said Power. “Flat spotted the tire. Any left-handers, you really paid for it. But still happy to be P2 in the Verizon Chevy.  It was my fault for not warming the brakes a bit more.  It is tough when you have to pump them out straight-away. P2 – you can definitely win from there.  We need a win. We will go for it tomorrow. Colton owes me a win from COTA so maybe he will let me go.”

19 year old Colton Herta outdueled Power on Saturday for his second career pole. The youngster circled the track with a time of 57.8111-seconds in his No. 88 Honda. This was Herta’s first top five starting spot since his pole in Road America on June 23.

Fourth place in the standings Scott Dixon (57.8355-seconds) will roll off third while Jack Harvey (58.1008-seconds) and Felix Rosenqvist (58.1620-seconds) rounded out the top five.

Where this could get interesting is, no one has won an Indy Car race this season past an eighth place starting spot. That essentially eliminates Newgarden and Pagenaud. Plus, 28 of the last 31 races run have been won by a driver from the top 4 Rows. But, one of the exceptions though came at this very race just last year. Takuma Sato won from 20th.

Grand Prix of Portland Starting Lineup

Row 1: Colton Herta, Will Power

Row 2: Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey

Row 3: Felix Rosenqvist R, Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 4: Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe

Row 5: Conor Daly, Spencer Pigot

Row 6: Zach Veach, Sebastien Bourdais

Row 7: Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci R

Row 8: Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti

Row 9: Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud

Row 10: Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton

Row 11: Charlie Kimball, Ed Jones

 

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