There’s a new top dog at Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Palou might have lost his championship lead after suffering a series of bad luck races — and even a crash in practice for this race — but the Spanish driver is back in fine form with his first-ever pole position in IndyCar at Portland International Raceway. He’s now within nine points of championship leader Patricio O’Ward.
Entrants: Marcus Ericsson, James Hinchcliffe, Romain Grosjean, Scott McLaughlin, Helio Castroneves, Callum Illot, Jimmie Johnson, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Oliver Askew, Pato O’Ward
The Portland Grand Prix’s first qualifying session kicked off with some new and familiar faces. Oliver Askew returned after being dropped by Arrow McLaren SP in 2020, and British-born driver Callum Illot prepared for his first IndyCar event ever.
It was a fairly slow session until drivers pitted for new tires, and Ericsson was released directly into the path of James Hinchcliffe, the latter of whom was leading qualifying at the time. Max Chilton briefly took the top spot, then Ericsson.
It was a tough qualifying for Pato O’Ward, who only narrowly missed the drop zone after a rough final lap that saw him getting loose on both entry and exit.
Grosjean was seen to interfere the laps of Scott McLaughlin; neither of them would have made it through qualifying even with a clean lap, but no further action would be pursued because it was an almost unavoidable issue.
Moving On: Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Alexander Rossi, Oliver Askew, Pato O’Ward
Out In Q1: Romain Grosjean, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Callum Ilott, Jimmie Johnson
Entrants: Alex Palou, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist, Sebastien Bourdais, Rinus Veekay, Ed Jones, Conor Daly, Simon Pagenaud, Dalton Kellett, Takuma Sato
The second qualifying session was stacked with most of the top-five championship contenders and many of the sport’s strongest drivers. Palou held the top spot during the first half of qualifying, with Newgarden shocking viewers by holding the bottom position for much of the session. He proved where he belonged by nabbing the second position with two minutes remaining in the session.
With the final laps in the session, Harvey and Herta both set some incredible lap times, and Boudais snuck into the top six as well during those final moments. Dixon once again set a flying lap, nabbing the top six; Newgarden slid back and would not move forward.
Moving On: Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon, Ed Jones, Sebastien Bourdais
Out Of Q2: Will Power, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Rinus Veekay, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden
Chip Ganassi Racing looked unbeatable in the second segment of qualifying; it was fascinating to note that not a single Penske made it into the session. Carlin’s Max Chilton proved especially impressive; as a driver on a one-car team, he and Carlin have struggled to gather enough practice data to really put in a solid qualifying or race effort. No matter where he were to finish, it would be his best qualifying session of the season.
Palou and Dixon swapped fastest laps and quickest times of the day. Rosenqvist set a last-minute fast lap, bumping his championship-leading teammate Pato O’Ward out of the Fast 6.
Moving On: Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist
Out Of Fast 12: Pato O’Ward, Ed Jones, Oliver Askew, Marcus Ericsson, Max Chilton, Sebastien Bourdais
A short Fast 6 session saw Rossi and Dixon swapping the lead with Alex Palou ultimately taking pole position at a track he’s found suits him incredibly well. It’ll be his first-ever pole position.
- Alex Palou
- Alexander Rossi
- Scott Dixon
- Felix Rosenqvist
- Graham Rahal
- Colton Herta