Setting the mark to beat in two of three practice sessions at Portland International Raceway set the stage for Colton Herta to deny both last year’s pole sitter at the venue and the defending NTT IndyCar Series champion with a pole-winning run in the Firestone Fast Six.
Herta’s 57.8111 in the third and final round of knockout qualifying wasn’t his fastest lap of the weekend but it was enough to place his No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda above both Will Power and Scott Dixon after the checkered flag.
Just a fraction of a second separated the top three as Herta edged out 2018 pole sitter Power by a scant 0.0192 seconds and relegated reigning champion Dixon to a start from third by just 0.0244 seconds. Regardless of the margins between the rookie sensation and the two veterans of Indy car racing, Herta claimed the second NTT P1 Award of his career, pairing his Road America qualifying triumph with another in the Pacific Northwest.
Although the top three were close, nearly three-tenths of a second separated Jack Harvey from Herta at the end of the Fast Six session, relegating the Meyer Shank Racing pilot to a start from the outside of Row 2 alongside Dixon. Harvey’s presence in the final qualifying round represented a positive result for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-affiliated team; Harvey outqualified both James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly of the main team.
Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay also featured in the Fast Six and earned starting positions on Row 3 with Rosenqvist lapping 0.0203 seconds quicker than Hunter-Reay on their respective best tours of the permanent road course Saturday afternoon. Just 0.3712 seconds separated the six drivers competing for the pole on the Fast Six running order.
Currently ranked fourth and fifth in the standings, Dixon and Power were the only drivers mathematically eligible for the championship that featured in the Fast Six. Points leader Josef Newgarden failed to advance out of Group 1 and will start 13th in Sunday’s 105-lap race. Second-ranked Simon Pagenaud also missed the cut to move out of his group and will start 18th.
Alexander Rossi, third in the points after a trying race last time out at World Wide Technology Raceway, did make it to the second round of qualifying but ended Round 2 with the seventh-fastest lap, placing him on the inside of Row 4.
The 1.964-mile, 12-turn road course will host the penultimate race of the 2019 IndyCar season Sunday with live coverage on NBC beginning at 3 p.m. EDT. The green flag will follow 42 minutes later.