Team Penske’s Will Power may have missed out on his second NTT IndyCar Series championship last year but his 2019 campaign is off to a strong start with the Australian capturing the first NTT P1 Award up for grabs following NTT’s alignment with INDYCAR.
The Firestone Fast Six was populated by two cars each from Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport but it was the Penske duo of Power and Josef Newgarden that rose to the top at the conclusion of six fast-paced minutes.
Power’s 1:00.4594 was enough to put the No. 12 Chevrolet atop the six-car group, although the time was 0.4118 seconds off Jordan King’s track record set one year ago.
Josef Newgarden’s best lap was 0.0976 seconds shy of Power’s, setting up an all-Penske front row for the first of the 2019 season’s 17 races.
Ganassi drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon locked out Row 2 with the Swedish rookie outpacing his championship-defending teammate by almost two-tenths of a second.
Continuing the trend of teams claiming a row, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi earmarked Row 3 for Andretti. Hunter-Reay’s 1:01.0784 in the third round was slower than his fastest practice lap while Rossi’s best lap was 1.3145 seconds shy of the pole time laid down by Power.
Penalties Affect Knockout Qualifying
The two rounds that preceded the Fast Six were riddled with red flags and penalties that jumbled the order and directly affected the makeup of the Fast 6.
Group 1’s 10-minute session was punctuated by successive red flags for Marco Andretti stopped at pit entrance and Santino Ferrucci off course at Turn 13. Both drivers lost their two fastest laps and were not able to advance. Due to the loss of green-flag time, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Jones, Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan were unable to set representative lap times.
While Group 2 avoided the red flags that dogged the first group, it wasn’t without its share of controversy. Dixon spun at Turn 8 and seemed to impede two other cars but was able to proceed without bringing out a local yellow. Due to his nearby competitors not being on fast laps, Dixon was judged to have not impeded any drivers by the stewards.
Dixon continued to struggle in Group 2 and placed seventh after the checkered flag. However, a penalty issued to Takuma Sato for bringing out a local yellow cost him his fastest lap, promoting Dixon into the the top six and sending him to Round 2.
The second qualifying round was also free of red flags but not penalties. Despite placing third, rookie Colton Herta was judged to have gotten in Charlie Kimball’s way. The move denied Herta his fastest lap and his chance at competing for pole. In Herta’s place, Rosenqvist advanced to the Fast Six.
Twelve rows of two cars each will speed to the green flag Sunday, March 10 at 1:37 p.m. EDT. A 30-minute warmup will begin the day at 9:20 a.m.