The saying goes that it only takes one good lap in qualifying. For Alexander Rossi, it only took one lap - period - to take the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Rossi turned just one timed lap in the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifying rounds, but it was enough to earn the first starting position. He was clocked at 1 minute, 4.6802 seconds (125.677 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda to pick up his third pole position this season and fourth of his three-year INDYCAR career.
By design, Rossi waited until less than two minutes remained in the Firestone Fast Six before going on track at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He knew that his red-sidewall Firestone alternate tires were at their best for him on the first full lap around the 2.258-mile permanent road course.
"For whatever reason, we had a one-lap car on reds, so that was a unique thing that's happened for us this year," Rossi said. "We used it to our advantage. That's the reason we sat there (until late in the Firestone Fast Six). We knew that was where our car was going to be best - one lap, going out."
The Andretti Autosport driver will lead the 24-car field to the green flag in Sunday's 90-lap race (live at 3 p.m. ET, CNBC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network; same-day encore telecast at 6:30 p.m., NBCSN).
"This one was really special to me," Rossi said. "Honestly, I think road courses have not been my strongest kind of attribute in the rise in the (Verizon) IndyCar Series, for whatever reason. It's something that has been our biggest focus really from the middle of last year.
"To be able to do that here on arguably the hardest road course we go to is a huge thing, and one that there's a big wave of happiness and relief that kind of washed over me when I was told we got pole."
Will Power qualified second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, with a lap of 1:04.8939 (125.263 mph). It marks the eighth time this season that the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner will start from the front row.
"Yeah, happy with front row," Power said. "Obviously, it's a real track position track. It's difficult to pass and everyone is fast these days, so qualifying means a lot. Alex just pumped out one really good lap there (to win the pole).
"I thought my lap was really good and then I came in and saw what he did, and that was a solid lap."
Row 2 on the Mid-Ohio grid mirrors the front row by team. Rossi's teammate at Andretti Autosport, Ryan Hunter-Reay, qualified third in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:04.9896, 125.078 mph). Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and defending Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden, Power's teammate, qualified fourth in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:05.1335, 124.802 mph).
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens qualified fifth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (1:05.1747, 124.723 mph). Max Chilton equaled his career-best start by qualifying sixth in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet (1:06.6172, 122.023 mph).
Several contenders had qualifying efforts derailed by incidents during the first two rounds. Sebastien Bourdais, the 2014 Mid-Ohio pole sitter, slid into the Turn 2 tire barrier in the first round and will start last in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda. James Hinchcliffe had just set the fastest lap of Round 2 when he went off track and into the tires in Turn 12. Penalized his two fastest laps in the round, Hinchcliffe will start 10th in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda.
Championship leader Scott Dixon was on track when the Hinchcliffe incident brought out the red flag, halting his hot lap. Dixon, a five-time winner at Mid-Ohio, will start ninth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and takes a 62-point lead over Newgarden into the race.
"I think it would've been tight for us without the red flag to get through (to the Firestone Fast Six), but you never really know. The PNC Bank car was good, and we had definitely made gains from Q1 to Q2 there."
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is the 13th of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Mazda Road to Indy recap
Patricio O'Ward (Andretti Autosport) won the first race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, leading all 30 laps. It was O'Ward's sixth win of the season and helped extend his points lead, with the second race of the weekend on Sunday.
Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) led all 25 laps of green-flag racing to win the first Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race of the Mid-Ohio doubleheader weekend. It was VeekKay's third straight win and fifth of the season, tightening Pro Mazda championship battle with Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) heading into Sunday's second race.
Kyle Kirkwood, who clinched the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda title by winning a day earlier, drove to victory in the second race of the weekend tripleheader. Starting second, Kirkwood (Cape Motorsports) took the lead on the opening lap when pole sitter Kaylen Frederick braked too hard in Turn 2 and went off course. Kirkwood drove on to his eighth consecutive win and ninth of the season.
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio qualifying driver quotes:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yeah, it was a very mixed up day for sure. We didn't know how it was going to shake out. I actually thought maybe we got knocked out in the second round because when a red flag happens like that, you just don't know exactly where you line into the equation. Fortunately, we were still sixth, so we got that Firestone Fast Six opportunity. I think we had a fast six car, potentially a pole car, but just didn't get it all put together. Fourth is a good start for us, it's not a bad thing, I'm not going to complain, but we did want to be a little bit higher. Now that we've got a good view, though, we will work on our race car. I think the Hitachi car has been fast. We need to make it a little more consistent, but if we find that for tomorrow we are going to be just fine."
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It was a tough qualifying. We need to do better for the race."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): "I got a bit greedy, there's no two ways about it. I feel really bad for everybody on the Arrow Electronics car. Obviously, the car got really, really good in qualifying. We've been sort of there, thereabouts in practice - we kind of struggled with different issues. With those Firestone reds (alternate tires) on, we were second in the first group and I had just put the fastest time up; obviously, most guys hadn't done that yet...it's tough. This place is a qualifying track position race and I think for sure we had a good shot for the Firestone Fast Six. Who knows what could have been. It is what it is. We still have Robbie (Wickens) in there (the Firestone Fast Six). We'll do what we can tomorrow, try and play tire strategy a little bit and see if we can move up."
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "Q2 was a bit weird. With the red flag for Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), I was actually on my first timed lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and I didn't actually get to do a full lap with the reds... I got through to Q3 effectively with my black (Firestone primary tire) lap. So, it was only myself and (Alexander) Rossi that were on the same kind of tire strategy going into the Firestone Fast Six, so I thought the Lucas Oil car was kind of a shoo-in for the front row; both of us only had half of a lap on our tires. We just struggled to get temperature out of our Firestone reds there and we had to settle for fifth. My lap felt fantastic, the balance was good, we just couldn't get the grip out of it. I'm feeling a little disappointed with fifth."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I think it would've been tight for us without the red flag to get through, but you never really know. The PNC Bank car was good and we had definitely made gains from Q1 to Q2 there. The problem there was (Alexander) Rossi. He came out in front of us and others in Turn 5 when we were on our fast lap. We would have easily made it through. I think he screwed (Josef) Newgarden, too. We just couldn't finish the lap and it was a bit of a bummer."
ED JONES (No. 10 DC Solar Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I think we had a great start to the weekend yesterday and the DC Solar car has shown good speed so far. We were on a lap that would have put us through to the final round, but the late red flag came out and that was pretty much it. It's frustrating when you know you have a fast car that can get you through to the next round, but circumstances out of your control keep you out. We'll make the best of it and work our way up from there for the race tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yeah, pretty good, yeah happy with front row. Obviously, it's a real track position track, it's difficult to pass and everyone is fast these days, so qualifying means a lot. Yeah, Alex (Rossi) just pumped out one really good lap there. I thought my lap was really good, and then I came in and saw what he did and that was a solid lap."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): "We tried something different. I think we made an improvement, we went quicker than we've ever been, but it wasn't quick enough. I think we had a car to start in the top 14, but we missed that by a tenth. We made more than 12 changes to the car between the last session to this session, so it was kind of unknown. Now it's time to try to figure out what we're going to do for the race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): "In the second round, the balance was pretty good. Clearly, I'm disappointed that it turned out the way that it did because I know that we had the speed to advance to Round 3 (Firestone Fast Six). The Fifth Third Bank car felt really good once I got some temperature in the tires in Turns 5 and 6. I thought 'OK, we've got a good shot at this thing.' The next thing I know, the red flag is out. I'm very frustrated. We're just going to have to work our way to the front from seventh. A lot can happen in a short period of time, so we're going to have to work our way through it."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): "The same thing as a couple of other times where I look like an idiot on the out lap or the first lap, going straight with no rear brakes whatsoever. We, for whatever reason, have to run a very forward brake balance and the front brakes heat up much faster than the rears. It was a super slow out lap. It's been like that the whole weekend, everyone is not getting going and I just can't seem to be able to factor it in. You need to be so far off any kind of braking references until the brakes temperature stabilizes. I just can't wrap my head around it and I keep getting caught out and making mistakes. It's very frustrating. I am very sad for the guys, they have worked so hard, and for SealMaster, Honda, everyone involved. We have a pretty good race car and we have nothing to show."
PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "It was difficult today. Obviously, we're disappointed with our result. I felt I couldn't turn on the tires. It's my first time qualifying on a road course in an Indy car and you really have just a short amount of time, plus with the red flag, we only got three push laps after that. I'm looking forward to the race. It's very difficult to overtake here, so it's not going to be easy to move forward, but we'll look at strategies and I'm confident our pace with the Paysafe car will be better in the race."
JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It's a little bit frustrating, only being two-tenths away from advancing. Right from the start of the weekend, I've been playing catch up. I've not driven here before, some of the other teams have been here testing, so it's been quite a steep learning curve to get into the car and get fast. Spencer's (Pigot) been doing a good job this weekend, so I've been learning from him. We put it together in qualifying, maybe there was a little bit of the time left on the table from me just not knowing the circuit that well. It's a bit annoying, but it is what it is."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "I had some difficulty with traffic, having to kind of abort a few laps early in the run. I had to try and get it done on the third lap, which is not ideal on reds (Firestone alternate tires). At the end of the day, I think we just had too much understeer to get a solid lap time out of it, anyway. We were quick yesterday, so hopefully, the Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet can be fast again tomorrow."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "I'm not comfortable with the rear of the car. So, I can't get in the corner myself and I keep making mistakes, so, that is my problem. That is what I'm dealing with at the moment. It is very challenging, which is a good thing, but we haven't been able to find my comfort zone here."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "First off, congratulations to Max (Chilton) and the whole Carlin team for making it into the Firestone Fast Six - just a really good job by those guys. It's unfortunate for us because we were just a couple of tenths off from advancing into the second round. I will say that testing here last week was a huge asset for us, because had we not done that, we would have been so much further off after how choppy yesterday's sessions were with all the reds and yellows (flags). Again, I'm really happy for the No. 59 crew - it just shows the progress that Carlin has been making and how we're continuing to step up each and every time we get to the racetrack."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): "Every weekend we just keep getting quicker and quicker. I was going down the back straight when they told me what the cut off for the (Firestone) Fast Six was going to be, I was about three tenths up on that. I thought 'Wow, I just have to finish this lap and we're in.' I get to Turn 6, and basically, just need to limp it home from there and then the red flag came out. It's just frustrating. Our lap before that was thrown away because (Ed) Jones and a couple of others slowed up, so I had to slow up to get track position. It's tough. Not many times do you have a car this fast, and when it's easy to make the fast six and it gets taken away from you, it's just hard to swallow. I was really hoping to have my first fast six come this weekend at my home track - but we'll work hard to move the Relay car forward tomorrow."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): "The No. 27 NAPA Andretti Honda has been so strong on reds (Firestone alternate tires) on Lap 1, it was strong yesterday. We thought that was a disadvantage going into last night, but when a similar thing happened in Group 1 for qualifying, we were like 'OK, we will use this to our advantage', especially when the red flag came out there. Huge hats off to the team, P1, first and third (where teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified). The effort that they put in, we were one of the only teams that hasn't tested here. Huge credit to the whole organization and hopefully we can convert it tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Some others ended up getting through with barely using the reds (Firestone alternate tires) from Q2, and unfortunately, we used ours pretty hard, so we just didn't have it there at the end. It was a pretty good lap for the tires that we had, but the other guys just had fresher rubber at the end. But we ended up third and we can make it happen from there. We just have to put our heads together and tweak the race car for the track tomorrow. Without warmup, it may be interesting, and we'll have to make our best-educated guess, but we can do it from third."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): "We made some setup changes after practice for qualifying and it seemed to be working good. We were third fastest in our group, which was promising. In the next group, our strategy was interrupted by red flags. It hurt many drivers and we were one of them. It's a shame we didn't have the opportunity to set a time to try to advance to the (Firestone Fast Six). I think we made good progress and we are headed in the right direction, though. Hopefully, we have a strong car tomorrow for the Honda Indy."
RENE BINDER (No. 32 HD Pellets Chevrolet): "The qualifying started pretty well for us. I was quickly up to pace. Unfortunately, we were not able to improve much throughout the rest of the session. One car went off track slightly and kicked up some dust on the track. I was the first car through and picked up some dirt on the tires, which happened during my last lap. We will focus on the race now and move forward tomorrow."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "It's been a good weekend for us so far and I think it's due in large part to the fact that we got to test here at Mid-Ohio last week. We were feeling pretty confident after we tested here, but it's just so tight in INDYCAR, so you never know. I was so close to not getting through to the Firestone Fast Six and since we only had scuffed reds (Firestone alternate tires) left, we went out early in that final session just to get a lap on the timing sheets. We went into that final round of qualifying on 13 lap-old red tires, so I'm pretty happy with where we ended up. It's amazing how qualifying can change your whole weekend and shift the momentum heading into the race on Sunday. While where you start certainly doesn't guarantee where you are going to finish, qualifying well does make a huge difference, especially for a new team like us. If we can just keep it clean tomorrow, I will take care of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet the best I can, and hopefully, we will come through with a great result for Carlin and Gallagher."
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation Sirius XM MSR with SPM Honda): "I think after Practice 2 yesterday, we were in a pretty good spot. Our red (Firestone alternate) tires yesterday were very good and we all were happy with the speed we had. We just haven't been able to keep that momentum going today. We struggled more in practice then I would have liked and we didn't have the same balance on the reds. We have some work to do on the No. 60 car. Everyone was struggling with the track, but that makes it important for us to stay on the ball. I don't know why we struggled today, but we will have to evolve our strategy for tomorrow. We will need the cards to fall our way, but I know these guys are great at strategy and I know they will give me a good car for the race tomorrow."
CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "I think we should be super happy with today. We started this weekend from the back because we were trying some things that just didn't work, but thankfully we were able to go back to the information we were able to gather from the test last week. That just goes to show how important this information-gathering experiment is. It would have been really fun to make it into the top 12, but it was a really stout group. I'm obviously happy to be where we are, considering where we started. Excited for tomorrow."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Ruoff Home Mortgage / Curb Honda): "The Ruoff Home Mortgage car has had good pace all weekend. We ended P3 today without a true gauge since we didn't get a run on new tires. We had to guess a bit for our qualifying setup and went too conservative. We had too much understeer and just missed advancing. Thanks to the No. 98 crew and congrats to Alex (Rossi) on the pole. We'll push hard tomorrow."
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio qualifying results
Qualifying Saturday for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:04.6802 (125.677 mph)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:04.8939 (125.263)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:04.9896 (125.078)
4. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:05.1335 (124.802)
5. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 01:05.1747 (124.723)
6. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:06.6172 (122.023)
7. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.1804 (122.828)
8. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:06.3755 (122.467)
9. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.4187 (122.387)
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:06.5549 (122.137)
11. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:07.0999 (121.145)
12. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 01:07.2287 (120.913)
13. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:05.6353 (123.848)
14. (88) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:05.7260 (123.677)
15. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:05.9471 (123.262)
16. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 01:05.7699 (123.595)
17. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:05.9630 (123.233)
18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:05.8133 (123.513)
19. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:06.0520 (123.067)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:05.9911 (123.180)
21. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 01:06.7354 (121.806)
22. (19) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 01:06.2138 (122.766)
23. (32) Rene Binder, Chevrolet, 01:06.9555 (121.406)
24. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, No Time (No Speed)