Saturday, July 20, 2019

Herta Prevails in Electrifying Road America Qualifying


Colton Herta set the fastest laps in the first two rounds of qualifying for this year’s REV Group Grand Prix, making the NTT IndyCar Series pole at Road America was his to lose. Participating in the Firestone Fast Six for his third time in seven attempts, the rookie returned to the top of the running order when it counted most.

In his bid to capture the first IndyCar pole for he and burgeoning team Harding Steinbrenner Racing, Herta joined fellow pole contender Alexander Rossi in employing a strategy including two separate runs Firestone’s softer alternate tire.

Taking to the track first with brand-new red-sidewalled rubber, Herta and Rossi completed “banker” laps to have a time on the board before returning to pit lane for red tires worn in a bit earlier in the weekend.

Already having miles on them around the grueling 4-mile venue, the scuffed reds came up to temperature quicker and enabled the quickest laps of the Fast Six from the lead duo. After two total laps from Herta and three from six-time IndyCar pole sitter Rossi, the young rookie was on top.

Rossi was behind Herta on track after the Harding pilot waited in pit lane, intentionally giving up the opening minutes of the eight-minute Fast Six session. Herta completed a 1:42.9920 trip around the historic circuit seconds before Rossi finalized his best lap, which was 0.1773 seconds slower.

Aged 19 years and 83 days, Herta became the youngest pole sitter in Indy car racing’s history, displacing fellow Fast Six participant Graham Rahal who has owned the record since winning the 2009 pole at St. Petersburg at 20 years and 90 days old.

Having added a pole to his race win at Circuit of The Americas in March, Herta continued his rapid development in the premier North American open-wheel championship. To begin the second half of his rookie season, he’ll lead Rossi and 21 other drivers to the green flag at Road America.

Scott Dixon halfway through Road America IndyCar practice lap
Scott Dixon participated in the second round of Road America qualifying but an engine problem for his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda meant only 11 cars turned laps in the round of 12. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

Team Penske’s Will Power and Josef Newgarden will share the second row after lapping within 0.3829 and 0.6116 seconds of Herta during the Fast Six. Third marks Power’s fifth top-five start at the track in six visits.

Similarly, Row 3 will be all-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Rahal and Takuma Sato qualifying fifth and sixth. Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot will launch from the following row ahead of James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti who were ninth and 10th.

Veterans Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and reigning champion Scott Dixon were notable poor qualifiers, earning the 16th, 15th and 12th starting positions, though Dixon punched his ticket to the second round but didn’t participate due to an engine failure.

An unspecified “engine issue” for Santino Ferrucci’s Dale Coyne Racing Honda mired him to the 21st starting position out of 23 after he caused a local yellow due to stopping at pit exit during Round 2. He’ll start near fellow rookies Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist who will roll off 17th and 18th.

The 55-lap race, scheduled to go green at 11:50 a.m. CDT Saturday, is all that remains of IndyCar’s 2019 visit to Elkhart Lake. NBC’s telecast will open 50 minutes earlier at noon EDT.

Aaron Durant
Aaron Durant
Aaron brings a developing design and editorial vision to The Apex every day and co-hosts The Braking Point podcast every week. As editor-in-chief and an avid reader, Aaron enjoys aligning his relentless care for quality with an interest in counterintuitive approaches.


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Alexander Rossi in Andretti Indy car on 2019 Belle Isle pit lane

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