Josef Newgarden put himself in the best position to get his bid for a second straight Verizon IndyCar Series championship back on track by winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying for the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Newgarden's last lap in the Firestone Fast Six - the third and final round of knockout qualifying - edged Team Penske teammate Will Power for the pole position that went to one of Roger Penske's drivers at Road America for the third straight year.
"It's nice when you have the car to do it," Newgarden said after a lap of 1 minute, 43.2026 seconds (140.020 mph) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet earned the 2017 series champion his fifth career pole and third this season.
Fifth in this year's standings after nine of 17 races, Newgarden picked up a bonus point for winning the pole and moved within 67 points of championship leader Scott Dixon heading into Sunday's 55-lap race on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course.
"We had the speed on Friday (in practice), so to finish it off today (in qualifying) is nice," Newgarden said. "It's only Goal 1. Two races: one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out."
Power, the 2016 Road America race winner from the pole, put the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet in the second qualifying spot with a lap of 1:43.2508 (139.954 mph). The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion has qualified in the top six for all 10 races this season and starts on the front row for a sixth time in 2018.
"We struggled in the first two rounds of qualifying, then got the car right at the end there," said Power, winner of the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May who is third in the standings. "So yeah, happy with the front-row start. Obviously this year I've had plenty of front-row starts, missing out by hundredths of seconds, so I've got to change something."
Newgarden's pole position is the 10th for Team Penske at Road America in 27 Indy car races at the historic track. It is Indy car pole No. 260 for the team that entered the sport in 1968.
Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will share the second row on the grid after qualifying third and fourth, respectively. For Hunter-Reay, it was a season-best qualifying effort in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
"I thought I had a lap that was going to be close enough for pole at the end, and just had a bit of a bobble through (Turn) 12," said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion whose best finish in four Road America starts was fourth place. "Just a little bit light out there on the used reds (Firestone alternate tires) and just came up a bit short, but we can definitely work on it from third."
Twenty-three cars will take the green flag in Sunday's race. Live coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Mazda Road to Indy recap
Colton Herta won his fourth consecutive Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, holding off teammate Patricio O'Ward to collect the victory in the first of two weekend races at Road America. Starting third, Herta passed Victor Franzoni for the lead on Lap 6 of 20 and led the rest of the way in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15.
Herta crossed the finish line 3.7061 seconds ahead of O'Ward, driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport entry. The last Indy Lights driver to win four straight races was Alex Lloyd in 2007.
The second Indy Lights race starts at 10:50 a.m. ET Sunday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
In the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, David Malukas completed a weekend sweep in an emotional race for the entire series. Malukas won by 1.3845 seconds over teammate Toby Sowery to duplicate the finish in Race 1 on Friday. Parker Thompson, who finished fourth on Saturday, extended his championship lead to 46 points over Rinus VeeKay.
Saturday's Pro Mazda race was run in tribute to Jeff Green, the former Pro Mazda driver who died from injuries sustained in a vintage racing crash June 16 in Canada. Peter Dempsey, Green's former driving coach, drove Green's Pro Mazda car ahead of the field for the pace lap. Franzoni, Green's Juncos Racing teammate in Pro Mazda last year, drove his Indy Lights car behind Dempsey on the pace lap.
In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Cape Motorsports' Kyle Kirkwood drove to his fourth win of the season, edging Kaylen Frederick of Pabst Racing by 0.4865 of a second in the first of two weekend races. The second USF2000 race gets started at 9 a.m. ET Sunday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
KOHLER Grand Prix qualifying driver quotes:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's nice when you have the car to do it. We had the speed on Friday, so to finish it off today is nice. It's only goal one. Two races; one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out. Verizon has been very good to us, and Team Chevy as well. Engine package has been phenomenal to get the most out of it. You see how well we work together with Team Penske and Team Chevy. We just have to be smart and get through the first couple laps. Save the tires, save some fuel and be smart if a caution comes out in the middle of the race. We'll see what we have for tomorrow."
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Tough qualifying today. We've been struggling a little bit finding the best setup for the car. We need to concentrate for tomorrow so that we have a great car for the race. It's a long race and you never know what can happen. We will keep working, improving and doing our best and will try to have a top 10 tomorrow."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): "We're struggling a little bit with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) - we just didn't find the gain like everybody else did. I'm not entirely sure, honestly. Obviously, Robbie (Wickens) is doing well, so it's a bit of a mystery for us. We went more towards his (Wickens') setup and the balance kind of went out the window for me. It's weird because we've been able to copy and paste setups all year long between the two of us and it just didn't work here. I feel bad for the Arrow Electronics boys - obviously, the car's capable of more. We just didn't get it today."
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "Overall, it's been a good weekend - we've still never been out of the top five in every session. Hopefully, me and the Lucas Oil boys can keep chipping away and come up with a slightly better car for the race tomorrow."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I just didn't think we had great space to work in out there on the track. There were about five other guys before us and they are all trying to get their spacing right, as well. It's nobody's fault, it's just there's a tight window for everything. Maybe we should have waved off a third lap on the black (Firestone primary) tires and got ourselves better time on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). It is what it is, though, and we only really had one lap to try and get something going. Then, we had people starting to back up in front of us and never got to show our speed. I think the PNC Bank car had enough for the Firestone Fast Six, but we'll have to show that speed tomorrow in the race."
ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The guys on the First Data car made some great changes today after we struggled a little bit early on in the weekend here at Road America. That was the most confident I've felt with the car so far this weekend and I felt we were going in the right direction. We were capable of being in the Firestone Fast Six today, but we got held up a bit. On the upside, we have a really fast First Data car and something we can use to improve on up the grid for tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was close. We were off the whole time. I gave it everything the last lap. A surprise front row. I keep getting front rows every weekend. Not the pole, but yeah, I'm pretty happy. But only five hundredths off, come on. I think I did a really neat lap. Josef (Newgarden) did a great lap. That was all I had."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "I got traffic on my fast lap, but it would have just put us in the top 13, not enough to advance. The car is understeering all weekend. We tried something overnight that didn't work, so it put us behind a session and we're back to the car we had yesterday. It was the same car, so we were going to do the same lap time as yesterday when we tried the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but getting traffic didn't help. But it wasn't going to change a lot - maybe a few positions, which always helps, but we've got a little bit of work to do."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): "We wanted to be further up and get the GEHL Honda in the top six. We've started in the top six every year, but there was nothing more in the car today. For maybe the first time this year, I'm confident saying that; there was nothing more. We only lacked one-tenth (of a second) over four miles from fourth (place), but that's what Indy car racing is now. Yeah, we qualified ninth, but when you think that a tenth of a second over four-plus miles can move you five spots, it's crazy, but that's the reality of Indy car. We've just got to try to find a little more improvement for tomorrow, make the car a little more consistent for the race, and hopefully, we can go out there and attack. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions for the race. There is no warmup this year, so we'll see how it goes."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): (About if he feels he's in a good position to win tomorrow): "Yeah, I don't know. I'd like to say so, but I'm not sure I believe it myself. It's been a bit of a tough day. I thought after yesterday we thought we had everything under control, and things were looking good, and this morning we rolled out and struggled with grip and then we went into qualify and really struggled for good. I think I only did one good lap to be honest with you in Q2 on that new set of option tires. Everything was really scrappy and really difficult to put anything together. In (the Firestone Fast Six), I really didn't get anything done properly. We tried one lap on both sets, but I'm not convinced it was the right thing to do - hindsight 20/20. Just one of those where you come out of the car and you're not quite sure what else you should or would have done, but not super happy with the way things have gone. The guys did a really good job, but I just -- yeah, I'm struggling to read anything that's happening out there, it's up and down, making a lot of mistakes, so don't really feel great about it."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "It's so competitive out there. I thought we had a really good chance at doing better in qualifying, but we ended up on the wrong end of the timing sheet. We just missed making it to the second round by a few tenths, so that's a bit disappointing. That said, tomorrow is a long race and a lot can happen. I'm confident we can move up the field and get that good result we've been chasing the last few races."
JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "We've been making progress throughout the weekend, little steps at a time and qualifying was our best session yet. The car is now performing within that half-second window of the front of the field. There's always that last hundredth of time left to get, so I'm a bit annoyed that we didn't get it, but it was still a pretty good lap. I got as much as I could out of the car. There was just a little bit of oversteer out of Turn 12 and that's probably the half a tenth that we needed to transfer. I would have liked to have got through to the next round, but it was still a decent effort considering how much progress we've made."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): "Qualifying was definitely a solid improvement. It's nice to have the Direct Supply car in the top 10 to start the race tomorrow. We've been making pretty big changes every session and we hadn't really found anything that worked until qualifying. We were struggling with the front of the car in some places and the rear of the car in other places, we just had to try and tack it down a little bit. Obviously, it helped being on new tires and the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the car has come alive - certainly a step in the right direction. To only be a tenth or so off the Firestone Fast Six, compared to where we were in practice, is a really good improvement. I'm happy with that, but we want to be higher up and we'll try for that tomorrow."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "That's not the result that we're all here for, obviously, and I think everyone here at Carlin is disappointed with that qualifying result, but at the same time I know Max (Chilton) and I both have a lot of confidence in this team and our engineering staff. We'll look at all of the data tonight and learn from each other and try to come up with a plan for tomorrow's race. The nice thing is that we're still learning and we're still constantly making progress, so it's not like we're out of options. We still have a lot left to try and a lot left to learn, so we'll just keep moving forward."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): "This weekend so far has been really good for us just confidence-wise. To show the speed that we have, I think we deserve to be in the top six - the car definitely does. I just made a mistake and just overdrove the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in the top 12 trying to make into the Firestone Fast Six. I calmed myself down and gathered it up, but I could only get us up to 11th. We have a great race car and I'm excited to see what we can do on race day."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): "We can do a lot from fourth. It's always disappointing when you lead your two groups and miss out on the pole, but it's so close. It's amazing that around a four-mile track, it's so tight. It's just a testament to get to the championship, but huge hats off to the whole NAPA Know How team. We really struggled yesterday afternoon and made some good decisions overnight that paid off."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We didn't test here, so we were a bit behind the 8-ball, but we made the right changes and I think we put a good effort out today. I was hoping to go one better at practice and be P2, but starting third is somewhere we can work from tomorrow in the race. It's going to be interesting with no warmup tomorrow and trying to get the right setup on the race car, but it's the same for everybody. We have an idea with where we are with older tires, so we'll try and estimate where we need to be with the setup and put our best effort out there. To fight at it from third is a good thing, so we can do it from there."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): "It was definitely a good day. The entire team worked extremely well. The No. 30 boys always have, but it is great to give them back a nice position in qualifying. We were just four hundredths (of a second) off from the top six (in Round 2) and that shows how competitive the field is. I'm extremely happy to start seventh, which is the best position here so far. It's a long race. We believe we have a strong car for the race, so I'm looking forward to having a strong result."
ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "Today we had no issues, which was important. Yesterday was for sure a setback, as we needed to run the whole day so that we could experiment with the red (alternate) Firestone tires and the softer compound. So not being able to run on the red tires yesterday really did not help our qualifying effort today. It is what it is at this point, so we will come back tomorrow and be ready to run a good race."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "Even though the results might not have shown it, I think we made a lot of progress here today at Road America. We definitely closed the gap from the beginning of the weekend and I really felt like I got everything out of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet that I could. With us starting where we are tomorrow, we'll have the freedom to try a completely different strategy, and hopefully, we can come away from a track I love with a decent result."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "Yet another tough qualifying session for us as we search to find the speed we need to get. We're going to take a look overnight, and hopefully, we can figure something out for the race. Hopefully, we set ourselves up for a fun race and get to pass a lot of cars."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): "We've been slipping backward ever since Practice 1 on the time sheets and just missed it. We're a little bit loose there. I don't think I got the most out of Lap 1 and we're outside looking in by three tenths (of a second), so it's not like we were that close. Hopefully, we're better with (tire degradation) than we were with new tires. The race is obviously a different pace, but you still want to start further up than 15th."
KOHLER Grand Prix qualifying results
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin - Qualifying Saturday for the KOHLER Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 4.048-mile Road America, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:43.2026 (140.020 mph)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:43.2508 (139.954)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:43.3811 (139.778)
4. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:43.4361 (139.704)
5. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:43.7121 (139.332)
6. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:43.7332 (139.304)
7. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:43.1108 (140.144)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:43.1769 (140.055)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:43.1874 (140.040)
10. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:43.1995 (140.024)
11. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:43.2265 (139.987)
12. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:43.3544 (139.814)
13. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:43.7356 (139.300)
14. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:43.4153 (139.732)
15. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:43.9843 (138.967)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:43.8591 (139.135)
17. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:44.0189 (138.921)
18. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:44.1165 (138.791)
19. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:45.1161 (137.471)
20. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:44.3438 (138.488)
21. (32) Alfonso Celis Jr, Chevrolet, 1:45.5584 (136.895)
22. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:44.3442 (138.488)
23. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:44.6258 (138.115)