Josef Newgarden was able to channel his disappointment and frustration into another epic drive on Saturday, earning pole position for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The Team Penske driver put his No. 2 Chevrolet on pole for the third consecutive race, but is still chasing that elusive victory as the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season begins to wind down. Newgarden is the first driver since 2015 to earn three straight poles.
While Newgarden’s run was impressive, he was nearly outdone by Colton Herta on Saturday. The Andretti Autosport ace just missed another pole by just 0.031 seconds but knew he was right there with an opportunity. “Probably very little, maybe like just the length of the P1 sticker,” he said. Herta will make his fourth front-row start this season and is aiming for his second win this year.
Qualification Results for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
The surprise driver in the Firestone Fast Six was Marcus Ericsson, who made a bold statement on Saturday. The Ganassi driver and 2021 race winner will start third tomorrow. Joining him on the second row will be Will Power, who is equally as desperate for a win as his teammate. Scott Dixon will start fifth on Sunday, and has had plenty of success here with his six victories. That being said, he has just one podium finish in his last seven starts here.
Alexander Rossi finally caught a break on Saturday. In the opening round of qualifying he finished 8th fastest but due to penalties to other drivers, was able to advance to the next round, and eventually the Firestone Fast Six. Championship leader Alex Palou will start 7th tomorrow, alongside Graham Rahal. A pair of Andretti drivers rounded out the top ten on Saturday with James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. It has been a struggle for the entire team but all four drivers did very well on Saturday.
Rinus VeeKay’s return from a broken collar bone has gone fairly well. The young Ed Carpenter Racing driver qualified 11th and will start the race alongside veteran Sebastien Bourdais. Felix Rosenqvist is also returning after missing the last race due to injury and starts behind them and next to rookie Scott McLaughlin. Simon Pagenaud was one of the cars penalized in the opening round and is the lowest-starting Penske driver in 15th position.
This is the 14th career pole for Newgarden and his first at this track. Oddly enough, today marks the 50th anniversary of Team Penske’s first IndyCar victory by Mark Donohue at Pocono Raceway. “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.”
The big surprise on Saturday was Pato O’Ward, who starts 20th. While he led the morning practice session, the higher temperatures during qualifying threw them a serious curveball. The Arrow McLaren SP driver is 2nd in the championship standings, 28 points behind Palou.
The race distance is 80 laps, which is 180.64 miles around the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course. Power won the first race of the doubleheader last year and Herta won the second race. Both drivers won their respective races from pole position.
Coverage for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at Noon on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar