Josef Newgarden on Pole at Gateway

Josef Newgarden was able to add another championship point to his lead today by capturing pole position for tomorrow night’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. The Team Penske driver earned his 2nd pole of the season with a two-lap average of 186.508 mph. Newgarden’s lead is now 36 points heading into the final oval race of the season tomorrow night. He won this race two years ago with a memorable move on teammate Simon Pagenaud.

Sebastien Bourdais nearly scored his first pole on an oval since Phoenix last season but got bumped by Newgarden on the final run of the day. The Frenchman had to settle for the outside of the front row. Newgarden’s teammates Will Power and Pagenaud will start behind them in Row 2. Row 3 will feature two aggressive drivers at opposite ends of their careers in Takuma Sato and Santino Ferrucci. James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon will start from Row 4, and Ryan Hunter-Reay and Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top ten qualifiers on Friday.

Qualification Results for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500

It wasn’t the best qualifying session for Andretti Autosport, with Hunter-Reay leading the way for the team. Championship contender Alexander Rossi will start 11th tomorrow, Zach Veach rolls off in 15th, and Marco Andretti starts last after a huge save during his qualifying run. The top qualifying Chevrolet outside of Team Penske was Spencer Pigot, who starts 13th in his Ed Carpenter Racing machine. His boss will make his final start of the season from 17th position.

The only drivers to have completed every lap at Gateway over the past two years are the top four drivers in the championship battle this year (Newgarden, Rossi, Pagenaud, Dixon). Dixon finished 2nd and 3rd in his last two starts here, and has finished 1st or 2nd in the last four races this season, trimming 59 points off of the lead in that stretch.

In the final one-hour practice under the lights, there were plenty of sparks and close calls with the outside wall. Charlie Kimball hit the wall in the closing minutes of the session, but was checked and cleared to drive. Ferrucci nearly did the same, but the impressive rookie was able to save his Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Team Penske took three of the top four qualifying positions today and have won this race in each of the last two years. They have won the last five oval races dating back to last season. If they can win tomorrow night, they would become the first team in series history to sweep all of the oval races in a season.

The race distance is 248 laps, which is 310 miles around the 1.25-mile oval. Power is the defending race winner, starting from 4th position after qualifying was rained out.

Coverage for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 begins at 8 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “It helps to start up front. I’m glad we got this one finished off. When we were in Iowa, I thought we had a car that could win the pole. So I’m just happy we got it right tonight. The PPG Chevrolet was so good right off the truck. Once we finished practice, we didn’t touch it before qualifying. Chevy has done an amazing job and gave us some great power to get the pole.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “A very strong run for the SealMaster Honda. It was a really solid effort and the guys gave me a great car. It felt very similar to Phoenix (took pole there in 2018). You never completely know how things are going to evolve from the practice run. The conditions are so different. During the run, there was a lot of sliding around in Turns 1 and 2. I gave it everything I had and I’m just really pleased with the run.”

WILL POWER: “Yeah, on the second lap, I had a big moment in (Turn) 1 and (Turn) 2.  The Verizon Chevrolet was good, though. I knew it would be close. I don’t know how close it really was. The car was on the right rear and I had to catch and get out of the throttle, then get back on it on Lap 1 there. Great job for Team Penske though. We are all up there.”

SIMON PAGENAUD: “The first lap was very difficult. The car moved around a lot. I was very active in Turn 1 and Turn 3. The car came alive on the second lap, though. I’m very happy with the performance. I think the No. 22 Menards team did a good job. Team Penske and Chevrolet – we are fast as usual. Should be a good race.”

TAKUMA SATO: “After the first practice, I felt positive. We made great progress and I was able to commit in qualifying. I’m very happy for the team. They did a great job. It’s an extremely challenging track. Turns 1 and 2, and Turns 3 and 4 have very different characteristics. The car was quite loose in Turn 2, but then nearly flat out in Turns 3 and 4. It’s a fun track. I am optimistic for the race.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI: “I’m really happy with our qualifying run. We have good momentum going right now and things are going really well. The car was great in practice this morning and I was confident going into qualifying. I took it a bit easy on the first lap, but when I saw how great the track was I pushed harder on the second one. The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda was awesome in qualifying, so hopefully our race car will be as good and we can go out and pass some cars tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “I have to thank the Arrow SPM team a ton on this run. We rolled off the truck with a couple of problems for first practice, and my teammate Marcus [Ericsson] was able to come here and test a few weeks ago, and he really helped develop the car from where we were last year. I have to thank him a lot, this is his setup. He was obviously quick in P1, we had all sorts of problems and just didn’t get a good run in. For me, I kind of had to just pony up and get after it. Because we were able to go after Marcus, we knew what the car had. Very happy for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys and the Arrow car.”

SCOTT DIXON: “I’m not sure if we had an issue with where our tire pressures were at or something, but it just kind of felt weird. The PNC Bank car was a lot better earlier in the day, so I think we need to learn a bit more why that was the case. I think if we ran another lap or two we would have been faster. I think our car will be good on the longer run for sure. I think our car is really good overall and I’m excited for the race.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “We were a little loose there on Lap 2 in Turns 1 and 2, and had understeer in Turns 3 and 4, and had to lift on Lap 1 a little bit. We just missed the balance a touch – it wasn’t much, but it doesn’t take much around here. We’ll focus on practice tonight and try to make a good race car. I think it will be a one-groove race and track position will be important, but we’ll do all we can to try to take the DHL car to the front tomorrow.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST: “Last week was tough. We only did one lap and more than anything we missed out on the experience of running the whole 500 miles. But this is a new week. It’s a new track and a new car, too. And even a new partner in Monster Energy. It’s not new to our Ganassi team (in NASCAR with Kurt Busch), but it’s their first time with an INDYCAR primary. We’re excited about this partnership. Our car wasn’t bad in qualifying, but I’m confident we can improve for the race. We tested here a few weeks ago so I’m pretty comfortable around here already.”

MARCO ANDRETTI: “The second lap I was still digging out of the hole from Lap 1. Gave it a crack and just lost it. It’s a bummer; I should have taken a little off of it there and just put two solid laps down but I was going for it.”

ED CARPENTER: “We really have gotten better as the day has gone on, but where we unloaded was too far outside the window. We used up a lot of time in that first practice correcting that. During my qualifying run, I bottomed a little too hard on the second lap and got loose in Turns 3 and 4. We’ll have to work our way through the field tomorrow night.”

CONOR DALY: “It’s just such a shame – it’s an ice skating rink out there. These Carlin guys did an awesome job with the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet and we had a really good session this morning, but with the oil dry down we just didn’t have a chance. We didn’t even really get to show our true pace this morning because we saved a set of tires, so I feel like we could’ve been even stronger if we weren’t the first one out again in this qualifying session. There was just no grip at all in Turn 1, which is where you need it the most. It is a shame because the car was good and we were really aiming to start in the top 10, which was completely realistic with the car we had in this morning. We’ll just work on our race car tonight and work our way up from the back like we did last weekend.”

MARCUS ERICSSON: “Our run was not perfect because of that (adjusting his line to avoid the oil dry). I think our first lap, it affected my Turn 1 but from then on I knew sort of how it affected the grip so the second lap I was happy with. It’s a shame because the first lap was too slow. I’m a bit disappointed with that, but the Arrow car was really good in P1 and good again in qualifying. I’m hopeful we can do something good in the race tomorrow.”

COLTON HERTA: “Qualifying didn’t go as well as we had planned today. I’m not satisfied with a 12th-place start for tomorrow. Luckily, anything can happen in 248 laps around this place. Now we have another hour practice to switch gears to race mode before green flag tomorrow night. Proud of the work the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda guys do for the team and me, looking forward to going green tomorrow night!”

TONY KANAAN: “It wasn’t a good run for us. The car had a lot of oversteer, which was the opposite of what we had in practice and that slowed the car quite a lot. We’ll have to work on the race setup this next session and see what we can come up with for the race.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL: “The track was just a lot different for our qualifying run than where it was this morning in practice after that oil dry went down. The car balance caught me out in Turn 1 and I had a big moment on the warmup lap just trying to carry some momentum. It’s tough because you only have two laps to get the most of the car and when you’re first out and the track conditions aren’t where they should be, it’s just extremely difficult. The No. 23 ripKurrent Carlin Chevrolet is definitely stronger than where we qualified, but we just didn’t have a chance with track conditions the way they were. Thankfully, we have another hour of practice under the lights tonight and 248 laps of racing tomorrow night.”

MATHEUS LEIST: “I thought we had a better pace, but we just struggled with oversteer in both turns and I don’t think it was because the track was a little bit dirty. I think overall we were more to the oversteer side. We’ll work on the car to make some changes for the last practice and try to get a good baseline car for the race tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT: “It was tricky there in Turns 1 and 2. There was oil dry down right there at the bottom of the corner where you want to be. It was a difficult run, it just felt like the whole car lacked grip all of the way through. We definitely made some improvements from practice to have a solid run. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL: “I thought it (the car) was going. I got so sideways in Turn 1 (on his first qualifying lap). I thought it was gone. I sent her in there and we just didn’t have enough. Once she settled down into the bowl, she just gave up. Going into it (qualifying), I felt really good. The car was nice and stable in practice, but we almost lost it in Turn 1 on that first (qualifying) lap. She went all the way around pretty much. It wasn’t as bad as Marco’s, but it was close and that’s it.  When you lose momentum as bad as that, it’s (qualifying run) over. It’s disappointing. We’ll just have to work our way forward.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI: “Last year we had a car that was really quick – leading both practice sessions.  It is a little bit different experience this weekend. We have one more practice session to dial it in. The NAPA Andretti Honda just isn’t where it needs to be.”

ZACH VEACH: “I was shaking after my run; it was a bit scary. I think we were just a little too free, but we held onto it as best as we could. I think we still needed about two-and-a-half more tenths. The oil dry in (Turn) 1, they said it was clean, but it was still down there. It just upset the rear a little too much.”

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