Alexander Rossi, third in the championship standings, added another point to his total with the fastest lap in the Firestone Fast 6 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- Results: 2018 Honda Indy 200 Qualifying
Three rounds of qualifying opened with 12 Group 1 drivers vying for the fastest lap in an effort to be in the top six, advancing them to Round 2.
Halfway though the 10-minute session, Carlin’s Charlie Kimball topped the timesheet and remained in the top half of the 12-car field until the closing minutes when a string of fast laps shuffled the order.
With two minutes to go, defending race winner Josef Newgarden was quickest but after the checkered flag, Andretti Autosport’s Rossi was fastest with a 1:04.9219 — 1.0519 seconds off the standing track record owned by Simon Pagenaud.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach, Robert Wickens, Newgarden and Max Chilton were fast enough to move on with Rossi to Round 2 while Marco Andretti, Kimball, Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist and Rene Binder missed the cutoff.
The second group of Round 1 qualifiers looked to get off to a quick start but the first half of their 10 minutes of track time was interrupted by a red flag brought out by Sebastien Bourdais.
The Dale Coyne Racing pilot ventured course in Turn 2 and made light contact with the tire wall. For causing a red flag, Bourdais lost his two fastest laps and was not allowed to advance to Round 2.
At the halfway point, James Hinchcliffe was fastest but once the session went back to green with four minutes to go, he could do no better than second while Will Power took the top spot.
Power’s 1:04.9930 was slightly slower than Rossi’s best from Group 1 but nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than Hinchcliffe. In addition to Rossi and Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Ed Jones, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon advanced to Round 2.
Conor Daly missed the cutoff by 0.2510 seconds and did not move out of Group 2 along with Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Jack Harvey, Pietro Fittipaldi and Bourdais.
Newgarden, who showed speed in Group 1, was quick early in Round 2 with a 1:07.5823 but as times dropped, Newgarden followed suit as he fell down the order.
By the halfway point, Hunter-Reay topped the group of 12 with a 1:05.7933 and stayed near the top of the running order through the checkered flag, which was immediately preceded by a red flag.
Brought out by Hinchcliffe who spun in Turn 12 and made contact with the tire wall moments after jumping to the top of the running order, the red flag caused the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to lose his two fastest laps and knocked him out of contention to advance to the Firestone Fast 6.
INDYCAR reviewed the incident for evidence of qualifying interference but judged the order at the end of the session to be the correct one, sending Hunter-Reay, Power, Rossi, Chilton, Newgarden and Wickens to Round 3.
Surprisingly, Rahal and teammate Sato were not fast enough to advance and will start together from the fourth row.
Five-time Mid-Ohio winner Dixon also did not advance, relegating him to a fifth-row start next to Hinchcliffe. Jones and Veach will start from Row 6.
Firestone Fast 6
For much of the six-minute Firestone Fast 6, Chilton was on track alone. The Carlin driver turned a total of four laps, more than the rest of the group of six, but could only come within 1.9370 seconds of the fastest lap of session.
Rossi, meanwhile, needed only one lap to secure his third pole of 2018 and the fourth of his IndyCar career. His 1:04.6802 was the fastest qualifying lap of the day but still 0.8102 seconds shy of record pace.
Power, the active leader on the all-time pole position list, was denied his 53rd career pole with a lap 0.2137 seconds slower than Rossi’s and will start alongside the American driver on the front row.
Hunter-Reay and Newgarden qualified to Row 2 while Wickens will start from the third row next to Chilton who gave Carlin its first Firestone Fast 6 appearance.
With no warm-up session on the schedule at Mid-Ohio, Indy cars will be on track next for the 90-lap race itself, set to go green at 3:42 p.m. EDT. It will air live on CNBC with an encore presentation on NBCSN.