Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – PORTLAND, OR – Scott McLaughlin led a Team Penske power play during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Portland, capturing the NTT P1 Award to lead a 1-2-3 performance by the team.
McLaughlin drove to his third career NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole – all this season – with a top lap of 58.2349 seconds in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet.
New Zealand native McLaughlin is one of seven drivers eligible for the series championship with two races remaining, 54 points behind teammate and leader Will Power. A driver must be within 54 points of the leader after this event to stay eligible for the title Sunday, Sept. 11 at the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“When the team wins, we all win,” McLaughlin said. “For me, I’ve just got to focus on what I’m doing. If I can be at the front and take points off others and win the race, that’s exactly what we want to do. Until I’m mathematically out of it, I want to keep going hard and keep trying to win races.”
McLaughlin earned his first career victory from pole at the season opener in late February on the streets of St. Petersburg and finished second after claiming his second career pole in August on the streets of Nashville. Live coverage of the 110-lap race at PIR starts at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden qualified second at 58.3129 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, but he will start eighth in the race Sunday due to a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after the race Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway. Newgarden is second in the championship, trailing Power by three points.
Power qualified third at 58.4254 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet but will start on the front row next to teammate McLaughlin.
The dominance by Team Penske may have been paved by a private, multiteam test session Friday, Aug. 26 at the 12-turn, 1.964-mile PIR road course during which Power was quickest, Newgarden third and McLaughlin fifth overall. Last year at this race, Power qualified 14th, McLaughlin 15th and Newgarden 18th.
“Credit to everyone at Team Penske,” McLaughlin said. “We weren’t great here last year, but we’ve come back here this year with three hot rods. We’re all pushing each other.”
Rookie of the Year points leader Christian Lundgaard was the quickest non-Penske driver, qualifying fourth at 58.4482 in the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Lundgaard earned a third consecutive spot in the Firestone Fast Six this season as RLL continued its second-half resurgence.
Reigning series champion and 2021 Portland race winner Alex Palou qualified fifth at 58.5075 in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda. Palou is fifth in the standings, 43 points behind Power.
Fellow title contender Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast Six with a top lap of 58.6090 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward is seventh in the championship, 58 points behind Power.
Five of the seven drivers in contention for the Astor Challenge Cup advanced to the Firestone Fast Six. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson were the exceptions, halting after the first round.
Six-time series champion Dixon, 14 points behind Power in third, qualified 16th at 58.2628 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Ericsson, 17 points behind Power in fourth, ended up 18th at 58.3064 in the No. 8 PNC Bank Honda.