Herta Speeds to IndyCAr Pole in Toronto

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 17 2022

Colton Herta collected a second pole in 2022. This one in Canada. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fresh off a reportedly successful Formula One test with McLaren Racing in Spain, Colton Herta returned to his current INDYCAR job at Andretti Autosport with gusto on the Streets of Toronto.

Herta became the first two-time NTT IndyCar Series pole-winner this season on Saturday, earning the NTT P1 Award for this afternoon’s Honda Indy Toronto. Herta recorded a flying lap of 59.2698-seconds/108.480 mph around the 1.786-mile/11-turn temporary circuit on the streets of Exhibition Place to secure P1. Herta added this pole to the one he previously had earned for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. 

The first nine races of this season had featured a different pole-winner, one shy of the 10 different pole- winners who started the 1952 INDYCAR campaign.

“That was an intense session,” said Herta, driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. “We hadn’t really found that time until right at the end. I was really happy with that lap. It all kind of came together. The car was working brilliantly. You don’t see that usually, guys going faster on the used reds (alternate Firestone Firehawk tires) instead of the new.”

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon will join Herta _ who also led the Saturday morning practice _ on the front row after a lap of 59.3592-seconds/108.317 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It was the best non-oval qualifying performance this season for Indianapolis 500 pole-winner Dixon, whose previous best road/street qualifying effort was fifth at The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 3.

Sunday’s 85-lap/151.81-mile event is scheduled for exclusive coverage on Peacock Premium _ with limited commercial interruptions _ and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 3 p.m. (EDT). Both outlets also will cover live the morning warmup session at 10:55 a.m.

“It couldn’t have been much better of a day,” said Herta, 22, a fulltime INDYCAR driver since 2019. “We had a great race car this morning and did a little bit to it to adjust it and ended up being very fast this afternoon. Overall, on the new (Firestone) reds we lacked a little of pace, but on the used reds the car just kind of came alive, which is intriguing and interesting for the race.”

Herta began his week with a two-day test in McLaren’s 2021 F1 car at Portimao, Spain _ a session that left team principal Andreas Seidl “quite impressed,” according to Racer.com. Herta completed 162 laps/460 miles as part of McLaren’s “testing of a previous car” (TPC) program. McLaren has yet to decide who will drive for it during the FIA’s mandatory two Free Practice 1 rookie sessions during the second half of the globe-trotting schedule.

Two-time INDYCAR champion Josef Newgarden, a three-time race-winner this season, qualified third at 59.5257-seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. He will share Row 2 with Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who qualified fourth at 59.5544-seconds in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

“It was a good recovery from our crew,” said Newgarden, the series champ in 2017 and 2019. “They put a whole new engine in this thing really fast after that second session and the car was great. I felt on that Fast Six lap that we were on a good one, a really good one. And then I ended up messing up at Turn 6. I overcooked the entry, tried to recover all of it on the exit, ended up touching the wall. And then it was kind of unraveled at that point.

“Really pleased with these guys. They did an amazing job. And so with Hitachi and Team Chevy, I think we’ve got something to fight with. I’m really encouraged by that.”

David Malukas was the top-qualifying rookie with a career-best starting spot of fifth after a lap of 59.6140-seconds in the No. 18 HMD Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. New Zealander Scott McLaughlin, a two-time winner this season, rounded-out the Firestone Fast Six at 59.9558-seconds in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet.

Qualifying provided mixed results for 2022 Astor Challenge Cup contenders in the series’ return to Canada’s largest city for the first time since Frenchman Simon Pagenaud’s victory for Team Penske in 2019.

Point-leader and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson of Sweden qualified ninth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Ericsson’s closest pursuer, 2014 series champion Will Power, endured a third consecutive event with a frustrating qualifying result. Power will start 16th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet after his final hot lap during the first qualifying session was halted when series rookie Kyle Kirkwood of A.J. Foyt Racing crashed his No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet in Turn 8, triggering a red flag and ending the group’s session.

Power has qualified 15th or lower in the last three road-course races. But the native of Australia has rallied to finish first and third in two of them _ at Belle Isle in Detroit and Mid-Ohio, respectively.

“I should know that you must stay in the top six every time because this can happen,” Power said of his lost lap. “I had a really fast car again. It’s crazy. That’s three races in a row we’ve been like P2 in practice before qualifying and then between 15th and 19th. Frustrating, man. Frustrating. I got to Turn 6 and was up four-tenths. That would have got us through.”

Newgarden, third in points, now is in great shape to potentially gain ground on Ericsson and Power from the third grid spot. However, fourth-in-points Alex Palou and fifth-place Pato O’Ward, have significant workouts before them.

Palou, the reigning series champion, slowed on-track and stopped after hitting the Turn 1 wall on the inside _ contact that sent the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda across the track and into the wall on the outside. The front and rear suspension on the No. 10 car were damaged and the Spaniard will start 22nd in the 25-car field.

Palou, of course, made headlines on Tuesday as the subject of a contract dispute that continues to brew between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren. Controversy began when CGR announced in a news release it had exercised its contract option for the 2023 season with Palou. A 25-year-old native of Barcelona, Spain, Palou followed with a tweet that stated the CGR release was issued without his consent and that he did not intend to continue with the organization past 2022 for “personal reasons.”

McLaren Racing followed with a release announcing it had signed Palou to drive for the organization founded by the late Bruce McLaren starting in 2023. McLaren’s release stated that in addition to his INDYCAR duties, Palou also would test with the McLaren F1 Team as part of its 2021 MCL35M F1 car testing program featuring fellow-NTT IndyCar Series regulars O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Herta.

Ironically, O’Ward clipped the wall Saturday in the No. 5 AMSP Chevrolet during his first qualifying group. The native of Mexico did not advance and will start today’s race 15th.

“I have to say, we did what we could,” said O’Ward, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him with McLaren through the 2025 season. “We need to continue working and see what we can make better for the race. It’s going to be an interesting race day; it’s a tough track. We haven’t been in the window all weekend so we have a lot of ground to make up.”

The day did produce a bright spot for an enthusiastic crowd of Canadian fans on-site for an event that was put on hold in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto-area native and series rookie Devlin DeFrancesco qualified a career-best 12th in the No. 29 PowerTap Honda fielded by Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).

Qualifying Saturday for this afternoon’s Honda Indy Toronto NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.786-mile/11-turn Streets of Toronto layout, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, Dallara chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.(26) Colton Herta, Honda, 59.2698 (108.480)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 59.3592 (108.317)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 59.5257 (108.014)
4. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 59.5544 (107.962)
5. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 59.6140 (107.854)
6. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 59.9558 (107.239)
7. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 59.6352 (107.816)
8. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 59.6630 (107.765)
9. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 59.8527 (107.424)
10. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 59.9151 (107.312)
11. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:00.0819 (107.014)
12. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:14.8882 (85.856)
13. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:00.0212 (107.122)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:00.6805 (105.958)
15. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:00.1193 (106.947)
16. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:00.7974 (105.755)
17. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:00.2712 (106.678)
18. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:00.7974 (105.755)
19. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:00.5324 (106.217)
20. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:01.0870 (105.253)
21. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:00.9817 (105.435)
22. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:03.0514 (101.974)
23. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
24. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:03.2511 (101.652)
25. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:05.2593 (98.524)



| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 17 2022
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