With Laguna Seca being the penultimate race of the season and five drivers contesting for the IndyCar championship, Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session was set to be an important one — and a stressful one. Though both of the top-two championship contenders made it through to the final round of qualifying, both suffered some pretty serious issues along the way. That allowed Colton Herta a perfect opportunity to score pole position — his second pole at Laguna Seca in as many years.
Qualifying Group 1: Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jimmi Johnson, Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato
Moving On: Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon
The first qualifying group was key, with four of the five big championship contenders hitting the track. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden wasn’t one of those championship contenders moving on, but Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon, and Marcus Ericsson would proceed to the Fast 12.
Qualifying Group 2: Alexander Rossi, Alex Palou, James Hinchcliffe, Oliver Askew, Ed Jones, Will Power, Max Chilton, Scott McLaughlin, Conor Daly, Helio Castroneves, Callum Ilott, Jack Harvey, Dalton Kellett, Rinus Veekay
Moving On: Oliver Askew, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, James Hinchcliffe, Alex Palou
The big name in this second qualifying group was Alex Palou, current championship leader. He’d have significantly less stress moving onto the next stage than his other championship competitors, as he was the only top-five championship contender in this session.
That said, it was an uncomfortably close session for Palou, who was very nearly bumped by a hungry Conor Daly but just managed to hold onto that sixth-place slot. Palou had gotten a little too eager on his hot lap, losing time to a wiggle.
Firestone Fast 12: Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Oliver Askew, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, James Hinchcliffe, Alex Palou
Moving On: Colton Herta, Will Power, Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, Pato O’Ward
The pressure looked to be getting to the two championship leaders. Palou locked the front tires several times, and O’Ward did the same thing, which left him running through the dirt with a lockup. It was interesting to watch, especially since both drivers had issues on what technically should have been their out laps.
The two drivers continued to struggle; Palou gave up on a flying lap that looked promising. O’Ward had a concerning moment where he almost left the track again, but it did put him briefly at the top of the charts. Palou quickly followed up to the top — and several other drivers quickly pushed O’Ward out of the top six.
With just 45 seconds remaining, Graham Rahal spun and stalled the car, but he managed to keep it going, though he did impact a little bit of Scott Dixon’s lap.
O’Ward pulled out a good lap after the checkered flag, but he did manage to keep it in the top six. Championship contenders Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson both failed to qualify in the top six.
The results were under review, however, after Rahal’s spin.
Firestone Fast 6 Start: Colton Herta, Will Power, Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, Pato O’Ward
Once again, Palou was running loose on his red tires, which saw him abandon a fast lap. And once again, O’Ward lost control and spun in the Corkscrew, which forced him to bail out of his fast lap. Colton Herta had a flying lap, taking pole position at Laguna Seca for the second time.
O’Ward’s spin dropped him from fifth to sixth position, and Will Power lost his second place to Alexander Rossi.
- Colton Herta
- Alexander Rossi
- Will Power
- Alex Palou
- Oliver Askew
- Pato O’Ward
- Marcus Ericsson
- Scott Dixon
- Simon Pagenaud
- Max Chilton
- Simon Pagenaud
- Max Chilton
- James Hinchcliffe
- Graham Rahal
- Romain Grosjean
- Ed Jones
- Felix Rosenqvist
- Scott McLaughlin
- Josef Newgarden
- Conor Daly
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Jack Harvey
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Helio Castroneves
- Takuma Sato
- Rinus Veekay
- Jimmie Johnson
- Callum Ilott
- Dalton Kellett