SALINAS, Calif – All four NTT IndyCar Series championship contenders were in the group of death in the opening round. See, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi all lined up in Group 1. Only six drivers would make it through to the second round and you have all four combined with eight other drivers vying to be among the top six.
It would be difficult for all four to make it through. But, they ended up doing so though. In fact, they all made it all the way to the Firestone Fast Six too.
But, the recently signed Andretti Autosport driver stole the show.
Colton Herta earned his third career pole by turning a lap of 1:10.1405-seconds in his No. 88 Honda as he bested all four title contenders. Herta, was also in the top three of four of the five test/practice sessions this weekend and has the best view for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network).
Scott Dixon will roll off second in his No. 9 Honda as the defending series champion circled the 2.258-mile race track with a time of 1:10.1831-seconds. Dixon, and Herta were the quickest on the Thursday test day and now were the top two in Saturday’s knockout qualifying round.
The good news for them is that 18 of the 22 Indy Car races in Monterey were won from the front row. Furthermore, eight of the last 12 races on natural road courses were also won from the front row too.
Row 2 will be shared by the top two in the points standings. Alexander Rossi (1:10.2105-seconds) will start third while Josef Newgarden (1:10.6719-seconds) rolls off alongside in fourth.
All Newgarden has to do on Sunday is to finish fourth or better and that’s where he starts.
James Hinchcliffe (1:10.8003-seconds) starts fifth while Simon Pagenaud (1:10.8616-seconds) rounded out the Fast Six. This is just the third time in seven natural road course tries this season that Pagenaud will start in the top 10.
Will Power narrowly missed the Fast Six by just 0.0055-seconds and will instead start seventh. Graham Rahal joins him in Row 4.
This will likely be the group that the winner comes from. 29 of the last 32 Indy Car races have seen the winners come from Row 4 or better. 13 of the 16 on the season came from the top six too.
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Starting Lineup
Row 1: Colton Herta R, Scott Dixon
Row 2: Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden
Row 3: James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud
Row 4: Will Power, Graham Rahal
Row 5: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Max Chilton
Row 6: Marcus Ericsson R, Santino Ferrucci R
Row 7: Conor Daly, Felix Rosenqvist R
Row 8: Spencer Pigot, Takuma Sato
Row 9: Zach Veach, Ed Jones
Row 10: Sebastien Bourdais, Charlie Kimball
Row 11: Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti
Row 12: Matheus Leist, Jack Harvey