LEXINGTON, Ohio (Saturday, July 3, 2021) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden continued to dominate NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Course, winning his third consecutive series pole. Now he must put aside recent disappointments in races and win the Honda Indy 200 Presented by the HPD Ridgeline.
The two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and driver of the No. 2 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet became the first series driver since 2015 to win three consecutive poles. Newgarden also was the top qualifier for the second race in Detroit and at Road America on June 19. But this one was close – almost too close.
Newgarden edged Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) by 0.031 seconds with his lap of 1 minute, 06.6739 seconds.
“That’s a little tighter than I wanted it to be,” Newgarden said. “That’s INDYCAR. It’s Mid-Ohio. Always tight here. So difficult.
“I think I’ve qualified second like three times, something like that,” he said. “It always comes down to being super tight at the end.”
Herta said he couldn’t compute the distance of a 0.031 second difference around this 13-turn, 2.258-mile circuit:
“Probably very little, maybe like just the length of the P1 sticker,” he said.
The pole was the 14th of Newgarden’s career -- his first at Mid-Ohio -- and came on the 50th anniversary of Team Penske's first INDYCAR victory (by Mark Donohue at Pocono Raceway in 1971).
Converting poles into wins has been a challenge of late for Newgarden, who is one of four winless drivers this season from Team Penske. The two-time series champion got passed by Pato O’Ward in the closing moments of the second Detroit race after leading 67 of the 70 laps and then had a gearbox failure at Road America with two laps to go after leading 32 of 55 circuits. He finished second and 21st in those races.
Poles are always important, and they come with a championship point. But at Mid-Ohio, statistics show the value of the pole even more. Fifteen of the 37 previous INDYCAR races – 40 percent – have been won by the fastest qualifier. Both of last year’s races were won from the pole and three of the past four have been.
Newgarden won the 2017 race at this track, and he will be aiming for his 19th career win in the series.
Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) qualified third with Will Power (No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet) fourth followed by six-time Mid-Ohio race winner Scott Dixon fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi sixth (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda). Power advanced despite a nervous first six minutes of the first round when his crew battled an electronics gremlin. They got it repaired in time for him to utilize the Firestone alternate (red) tires to advance.
The Firestone Fast Six was comprised of two cars each from Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the HPD Ridgeline will air live on NBC at noon. The INDYCAR Radio Network will also have the coverage on its affiliates, INDYCAR.com, the INDYCAR Mobile app presented by NTT DATA and SiriusXM Channel 205.
The first qualifying group had a strange ending. Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) spun coming to the timing line on his final lap, drawing a local caution flag. Rossi and Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) slowed but per rule had those laps disallowed. Harvey lost his fastest lap for creating the situation. That kept Harvey and Pagenaud from advancing to the Round of 12, and they will start 15th and 23rd, respectively, Rossi and Sebastien Bourdais (No. 14 ROKiT/A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet) moved on.
Rossi was one of Michael Andretti’s four drivers securing a spot in the top 12. They swept the podium in last year’s second race at Mid-Ohio.
O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) had posted the fastest time in Saturday’s morning practice, but the temperatures rose considerably – and it will be hotter Sunday – and he failed to advance from the first round. He will start the 80-lap race from the 20th position.
O’Ward will have work to do to cut into the series lead of Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda). Palou holds a 28-point lead and will start 13 positions higher than O’Ward. Palou missed a spot in the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0384 seconds, bumped by Ericsson on the final lap.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Chevrolet) and Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) are back in the starting lineup after missing races. VeeKay missed one race after breaking a clavicle in a cycling accident June 14; Rosenqvist was held out of two races following his crash into a tire barrier in the June 12 street race in Detroit. They will start 11th and 13th, respectively.
Two-time Indy Lights race winner Ryan Norman (No. 52 KOINU INU/EVO Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) will make his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES start from the 26th position. He will start in the 13th row alongside seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson of Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 48 Carvana Honda).