Josef Newgarden took greatest advantage of constantly changing conditions in Honda Indy Toronto qualifying to win the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for the 34th Indy car race to be conducted at Exhibition Place on Sunday.
The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and defending Toronto winner was the last driver to take the track in the Firestone Fast Six, the third and final round of knockout qualifying on the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary street course. Newgarden‘s final lap in the six-minute climactic session was the last lap run by anyone and, at 59.4956 seconds (108.068 mph), earned the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet driver his fourth pole of the season and sixth of his seven-year Verizon IndyCar Series career.
The three rounds of qualifying took place in varying conditions – starting wet from rain and drying out when it subsided, only to see light precipitation return for the Firestone Fast Six. Despite the slick track, drivers in the final round opted for Firestone’s dry-condition alternate tires, with Newgarden waiting as long as possible to begin his run.
“We went out a little later which, I thought if we could keep the minimum amount of laps on the tires, the better,” said Newgarden, whose bonus point earned for winning the pole closed him within 32 points of championship leader Scott Dixon, who qualified second.
“The last lap, I could feel it was getting better and better,” Newgarden added of the track conditions. “I’m like, ‘I’ve got to go for it here. I know that we can get the pole so I’m going to go for it.’ I gave it everything I had and that’s what we came up with, man.”
Newgarden has won the Verizon P1 Award in three of the last four races this season and qualified second in the other race. His first Toronto pole is Indy car pole position No. 262 in the 51-year history of Team Penske – more than any other team.
Dixon set a lap record for the current track configuration, 58.5546 seconds (109.805 mph), in Round 2, eclipsing the standard established last year by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (59.9124 seconds). The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion blamed himself for not putting the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on the pole, with his lap of 59.6920 seconds (107.713 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six falling short of Newgarden‘s pole-winning lap.
“I’m a bit disappointed and (mad) at myself for not putting the PNC Bank car on pole position,” Dixon said. “I feel bad for my team as well, as they gave me a car capable of doing it. I made a mistake in Turn 5 and that cost me a few tenths.
“All in all, it’s not terrible starting on the front row, but when you know you had one and then let it get away, it hurts a little bit.”
Pagenaud qualified third in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, with a lap of 59.7630 seconds (107.585 mph). Teammate Will Power was fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (59.8818, 107.372 mph).
Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start in Row 3 on Sunday. Rossi qualified the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda fifth (1:00.6273, 106.051 mph), with Hunter-Reay sixth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:00.6615, 105.991 mph).
Hometown favorites and Schmidt Peterson teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens qualified ninth and 10th, respectively. Conor Daly, driving in his first race weekend since the Indianapolis 500 in May, qualified the No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet 11th.