McLaughlin Earns Nashville Pole

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 7 2022

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin will start P1 in Nashville on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

After starting last year’s inaugural NTT IndyCar Series race on the Streets of Nashville from fictional “Narnia,” Scott McLaughlin will lead the field Sunday afternoon from a real-world P1.

McLaughlin won the NTT P1 Award Saturday for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, securing his second career pole on his last flying lap in the Firestone Fast Six. McLaughlin logged a lap of 1 minute, 14.5555-seconds/101.401 mph around the 2.1-mile/11-turn temporary street circuit that includes two trips per lap over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge. The New Zealander’s pole came after he led practice earlier in the day at 1:15.4609-seconds.

A three-time Australian V8 Supercars champion for DJR Team Penske, Scotty Mac scored the 61st pole of his Team Penske career, snapping a tie with former Penske ace Helio Castroneves of Brazil.

“Yeah, I really wanted that one,” said McLaughlin, 29, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. “Yeah, just stoked, man. “We did that on one lap, used tires. One of those good laps. The car has been just absolutely phenomenal all weekend since we really rolled out of the truck. We massaged it overnight, came out with a beauty today. Really haven’t touched it apart from a little bit of front wing.

“It’s a credit to the team; this DEX Imaging Chevy car is really good, man. I’m really excited for (Sunday’s race). I think it’s obviously going to be a pretty blockbuster, crazy race. To start from the front…last year I think I started from Narnia last year, I don’t know where I was. I was 20th. So, it’s going to be a lot easier to start, control the pace hopefully and see where we go.”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport will join McLaughlin on the front row after his best lap of 1:14.6975-seconds/101.208 mph in the No. 28 Honda. It was the highest qualifying effort of 2022 for the former Formula One regular, whose previous-best start was fifth in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., in February.

Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport won the Nashville pole last Aug. 7 with a lap in 1:13.6835-seconds/102.601 mph in the No. 26 Honda. Marcus Ericsson won the race in his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The start of qualifying was delayed by 90 minutes due to thunderstorms and lightning that rumbled through downtown. The rain changed the grip level on the tricky, bumpy street circuit to McLaughlin’s advantage.

McLaughlin’s previous pole was recorded on the Streets of St. Pete, where he won from P1 for his first career series victory. McLaughlin also won The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio in early July from the second starting spot.

Live coverage of today’s 80-lap/168-mile event is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (EDT) on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup is set for 10:15 a.m., with live coverage on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

The 2021 series Rookie of the Year, McLaughlin is seventh in the point standings led by Penske teammate Will Power with only four races remaining. Still, McLaughlin believes he has an outside shot at the championship.

“Yeah, the belief is there absolutely,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve said it all along, I feel like a little bit of an underdog in this. There’s no reason why we can’t go on a run. These are four tracks that I really enjoy. I mean, Gateway we ran fourth. Portland I out-qualified my teammates. Feel like our cars are quicker there this year. No reason why we can’t be fast there again. Laguna (Seca) _ I love that track. I just made a mess of qualifying, as I did all last year.

“Anything can happen. It’s INDYCAR. We have a solid week, focus on ourselves, who knows what will happen? Yeah, certainly a position I’m not unfamiliar with, that’s for sure.”

Rookie Christian Lundgaard continued his impressive weekend by qualifying a career-best third at 1:14.7149-seconds in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The Dane’s previous-best start was fourth last August in the road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Lundgaard, who paced practice Friday, arrived in Nashville after earning a career-best second-place finish last Saturday in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the IMS Road-Course.

Joining Lundgaard in Row 2 is reigning series champion Alex Palou of Spain, who qualified fourth at 1:14.9087-seconds in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Native Mexican Pato O’Ward qualified fifth at 1:14.9261-seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Two-time series champion and Nashville-area native Josef Newgarden rounded-out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:15.1461-seconds in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Newgarden made an interesting gamble that didn’t pay off. He was the only driver in the Firestone Fast Six to qualify on Firestone primary (black) tires. The other five drivers chose Firestone alternate (red) tires, which this weekend are constructed with rubber derived from the drought-resistant guayule shrub native to the American Southwest. The primary tire lasts longer but isn’t as grippy as the alternate tire.

Still, Newgarden, O’Ward and Palou are among the top six drivers in the series standings who will start the race from the first three rows. Point-leader Power, 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Ericsson and six-time series champion Scott Dixon of CGR weren’t as lucky.

Power, who leads Ericsson by nine points with four races to go, will start eighth in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. He lost his quickest lap of the second round of qualifying, which would have advanced him into the Firestone Fast Six, when he was penalized for causing a local yellow that affected the lap of the trailing O’Ward late in that session. Power continued long into a run-off area.

“It’s always tough in quali with track position and penalties and getting caught by reds (flags),” said Power, the 2014 series champ and a native of Australia. “That’s just the way it is. It’s hard.”

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dixon and Ericsson didn’t make it out of the first round of qualifying. Dixon will start 14th in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda as he pursues a record-tying seventh season championship.

Ericsson will start 18th in the 26-car field in the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Ironically, the native of Sweden won the inaugural race on this circuit last year from the same starting spot.

“We need to come up with a good strategy and play the race how it comes,” Ericsson said. “There have been a lot of incidents this weekend, again like last year. I think there are still going to be opportunities. We’re just lacking a bit too much speed at the moment.”

Alexander Rossi’s victory in the Gallagher Grand Prix last Saturday now carries an asterisk. INDYCAR officials charged Rossi and Andretti Autosport on Wednesday for a post-event infraction on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course.

The sanctioning body fined Andretti Autosport $25,000 and penalized the team 20 entrant/driver points after the No. 27 Honda was found in violation of the following during post-race inspection:

_ Rule The minimum weight shall include the car in ready-to-compete condition excluding Driver, Driver Equivalency Weight, fuel and drink bottle content.

_ Rule Minimum weight for Road/Street Events will be 1,700 pounds.

“From a sporting perspective, the car met minimum requirements,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said in a release. “From a technical perspective, the way they achieved the weight is not allowed. To meet minimum weight, the drink bottle and its contents were used as car ballast, which is not permitted and why the team is being fined and penalized.”

Members may contest the penalties detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the IndyCar Series rulebook.

Rossi snapped a 49-race series winless streak dating to June 23, 2019 at Road America _ a period of 1,133 days. Rossi recorded his eighth career victory around IMS’ 2.439-mile/11-turn road-course, bookending his upset win in the landmark 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on the famed 2.5-mile oval in May 2016.

Rossi led 44 of 85 laps last Saturday to become the fourth driver to claim wins on both the oval and road-course at IMS. This week’s penalty dropped Rossi to ninth in the standings, one point behind Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist of Arrow McLaren SP.

Rossi will start today’s race from 17th after a lap in 1:21.4579-seconds/92.809 mph.

INDYCAR officials have served a six-position starting grid penalty on the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda driven by Helio Castroneves for an unapproved engine change following last Saturday’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course.

The team was in violation of Rule A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.

According to Rule, the penalty is a six-position starting grid penalty on road and street course events and nine positions at oval events and will be served at the series’ next event, which is the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Sunday, Aug. 7, on the Streets of Nashville.

Castroneves, a four-time Indy 500 champion, will start today’s race from the 24th position after his best lap of 1:16.5898-seconds/98.708 mph in the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

Rinus VeeKay will remain driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2023 season and beyond as part of a multi-year agreement. The 21-year-old Dutchman joined ECR prior to the 2020 season and has spent the entirety of his INDYCAR career with the Indianapolis-based team.

VeeKay will run the full 2023 schedule in the No. 21 entry, which he will campaign for a fourth consecutive year.

“Ed Carpenter gave me the opportunity to drive for the team when I came out of Indy Lights and has let me showcase my talents in an INDYCAR ever since,” said VeeKay, the series’ 2020 Rookie of the Year and driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. “The continuity at ECR is great, there have barely been any changes in my time here and it’s very nice to have the same group of people around me all the time. We have been stepping-up our game every season and with the support of Todd Ault and BitNile, we can really move forward as we head into 2023.”

VeeKay joined the ranks of INDYCAR race-winners in 2021 via his first career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course. VeeKay now is the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 11-year history. He will start Sunday’s race in Nashville from the 10th position after a qualifying lap of 1:15.3897-seconds/100.279 mph.

Linus Lundqvist moved one step closer to his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship Saturday when he was awarded pole position for the Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix, as lightning-laden thunderstorms that rolled through downtown Nashville forced cancellation of qualifying.

The starting field was set by entrant points, per the series rulebook. A native of Sweden, Lundqvist leads the championship standings by 77 points over Hunter McElrea with four races remaining, with an identical gap in the entrant points with his No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry. Lundqvist will start P1 for the sixth time this season.

“I’m a little bit sad that qualifying got canceled,” Lundqvist said. “I think this place around a qualifying session would have been awesome. I think it would have been a good fight between us. But we’ll take starting on-pole for the race. I’m definitely taking advantage of that aspect.”

McElrea, winner of the last two Lights races, will start second in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car.

Live coverage of Indy Lights’ debut race on the 2.1-mile/11-turn temporary street circuit is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. (EDT) today on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The race will be 35 laps or 55 minutes, whichever comes first.

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 for today’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.1- mile/11-turn Streets of Nashville temporary circuit, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

  1. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:14.5555 (101.401)
    2. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:14.6975 (101.208)
    3. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:14.7149 (101.185)
    4. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:14.9087 (100.923)
    5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:14.9261 (100.899)
    6. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.1461 (100.604)
    7. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:14.9616 (100.852)
    8. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:14.9818 (100.824)
    9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:15.3112 (100.383)
    10. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:15.3897 (100.279)
    11. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:15.9758 (99.505)
    12. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:16.5600 (98.746)
    13. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:19.4039 (95.209)
    14. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:15.3179 (100.375)
    15. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:21.1784 (93.128)
    16. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:15.4382 (100.214)
    17. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:21.4579 (92.809)
    18. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:15.4501 (100.199)
    19. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 01:57.6982 (64.232)
    20. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:15.5935 (100.009)
    21. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
    22. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:16.3955 (98.959)
    23. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, No Time (No Speed)
    24. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:16.5898 (98.708)
    25. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, No Time (No Speed)
    26. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:17.5888 (97.437)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 7 2022
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