If Team Penske's speed from qualifying transfers over to the race, the rest of the field might be in trouble. (Photo: Joe Skibinski | Penske Entertainment)
PORTLAND, Ore. - Team Penske’s qualifying pace wasn’t a match for the NTT IndyCar Series field on Saturday afternoon at Portland International Raceway as Scott McLaughlin took his third pole of the 2022 season for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Portland.
McLaughlin’s pole time of 58.2349 led a Penske 1-2-3 for the Captain’s organization, with Josef Newgarden and Will Power qualifying second and third respectively. However, Newgarden’s six-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change means he’ll drop down to eighth for the start of the 110-lap race at PIR.
It’s safe to say that Saturday was “Penske Perfect,” after they attended the private test at PIR last week and discovered something to improve on last year’s performance.
“Credit to everyone at Team Penske,” McLaughlin said. “We weren’t great here last year but we’ve come back here with three hotrods. We’re all pushing each other – Will (Power), Josef (Newgarden) and myself.
“To get pole is obviously a great thing. The Freightliner Chevy feels good. The Chevy power is great. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
The fastest non-Penske driver was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rookie Christian Lundgaard, who was fourth quickest but will move up to third at the start, thanks to Newgarden’s penalty. This is Lundgaard’s third consecutive appearance in the Firestone Fast Six on the road and street courses, previously advancing to the final round of qualifying at Nashville and the IMS Road Course.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou (fifth) and Pato O’Ward (sixth) from Arrow McLaren SP rounded out the Fast Six.
Chip Ganassi Racing's playing a game of catch-up this weekend at Portland International Raceway, struggling to match the pace of Team Penske. (Photo: James Black | Penske Entertainment)
One of the biggest surprises from Round 1 of qualifying occurred in Group 2 when two Ganassi drivers still in contention to win the championship failed to advance to the Fast 12. Palou was the only Ganassi driver to advance.
In Group 1, Jimmie Johnson failed to advance with the 23rd fastest lap time. Then, title contenders Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were eliminated from Group 2 while all three Team Penske Chevrolets made the Fast 12.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the two disappointed Ganassi drivers hoping to be on pace with the Penskes.
“I think we did improve the car a bit for qualifying and I think we’re closer to the fastest guys, so that’s a step forward,” Ericsson said. “But we’ve seemed to be a bit on the backfoot all weekend. The car feels pretty good out there but we’re lacking a bit of pace.
“All three of us are quite close together there and I felt like I hooked up some good laps, especially on the reds. But missing the last couple of tenths and ultimate pace.”
Ericsson will start 18th while Dixon rolls off the grid in 16th.
In the opening round of qualifying, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta ran into issues on the right side of his No. 26 Honda and hit the Armco barrier entering Turn 1 on a flying lap. The NBC Sports booth on Peacock compared it to the swimming pool section on the streets of Monte Carlo in Monaco.
This incident caused damage to the toe-link and Andretti repaired it fast enough to get Herta back on track. With Herta facing the threat of not making the Fast 12, he posted another lap that was good enough for him to advance to the next round.
Herta ended up qualifying a respectable eighth in the Fast 12 although he really hoped to advance to the Fast Six. The Newgarden grid penalty means Herta will start seventh.
Grand Prix of Portland Qualifying Results
The Captain must be smiling on a truly "Penske Perfect" Saturday as he watched his three cars go 1-2-3 in Rip City. (Photo: Joe Skibinski | Penske Entertainment)
(3) Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske-Chevrolet
(2) Josef Newgarden, Team Penske-Chevrolet
(12) Will Power, Team Penske-Chevrolet
(30) Christian Lundgaard (R), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda
(10) Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda
(5) Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet
(7) Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet
(26) Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian-Honda
(27) Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport-Honda
(18) David Malukas (R), Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports-Honda
(15) Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda
(21) Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet
(14) Kyle Kirkwood (R), AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet
(77) Callum Ilott (R), Juncos Hollinger Racing-Chevrolet
(28) Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport-Honda
(9) Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda
(45) Jack Harvey, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda
(8) Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda
(60) Simon Pagenaud, Meyer Shank Racing-Honda
(20) Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet
(06) Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing-Honda
(51) Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing-Honda
(48) Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda
(29) Devlin DeFrancesco (R), Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport-Honda
(4) Dalton Kellett, AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet
Note: Newgarden and Kellett will receive a six-place grid penalty for the Grand Prix of Portland, due to unapproved engine changes, following the previous race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.