Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – ELKHART LAKE, WI – After stepping over the limit of adhesion more than once earlier Saturday, Colton Herta got a grip on his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole in nearly a year.
Herta won the NTT P1 Award for the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR with a best lap of 1 minute, 40.1945 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. He led the Firestone Fast Six despite going off track twice in practice Saturday morning and during the second round of qualifying.
The top lap was nearly 4.7 seconds quicker than the 2022 pole lap of 1:44.8656 set by Alexander Rossi, as the entire 14-turn, 4.014-mile circuit was repaved last fall. But Dario Franchitti’s 23-year-old track record of 1:39.866 barely survived, set in 2000 with a different chassis and engine formula.
“We’ve been working at it the whole time,” Herta said. “This place with the repave is not easy. To have a car that was stable enough to really attack in that last Fast Six was impressive. It’s been way too long this year for us to get a pole, so it’s nice to finally get one.”
This was Herta’s 10th career pole and first since the Honda Indy Toronto in July 2022. He became the sixth different pole winner in eight races this season.
Herta will aim for his first win of the season in the 55-lap race at 1 p.m. ET Sunday (USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). A 30-minute morning warmup precedes the race at 10:15 a.m. ET Sunday (Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Pato O’Ward will join Herta on the front row after a best lap of 1:40.3643 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. It’s O’Ward’s best starting position this season.
Championship leader Alex Palou qualified third at 1:40.4930 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda after a sensational salvage job by himself and the Chip Ganassi Racing crew. 2021 series champion Palou sideswiped a tire barrier heavily in practice after spinning off track Saturday morning, but the crew rebuilt the car just in time for the start of qualifying.
2023 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Josef Newgarden qualified fourth at 1:40.9530 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi, who led both practice sessions leading into qualifying this weekend, qualified fifth at 1:41.1854 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Kyle Kirkwood will start sixth. He earned a spot in the Firestone Fast Six but didn’t participate after smoke trailed from his No. 27 AutoNation Honda right after the Round of 12 qualifying session ended.
Two multiple series champions will face a long climb to get to the front of the field after neither advanced from the first round of qualifying.
Two-time and reigning series champion Will Power will start a season-low 22nd in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Six-time series champion Dixon will start 23rd – also a season low – in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Both Power and Dixon were set on the back foot during a collision in practice Saturday morning that resulted in heavy damage for both machines. Team Penske repaired Power’s damaged car, while Chip Ganassi Racing was forced to a backup car for Dixon.