Penske Owns Portland In Qualifying

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 4 2022

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin will start P1 at Portland on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Scott McLaughlin paced a Team Penske power play during qualifying Saturday for the Grand Prix of Portland, capturing the NTT P1 Award to lead a 1-2-3 sweep for Roger Penske’s juggernaut.

McLaughlin drove to his third career Series pole _ all this season _ with a hot lap of 58.2349-seconds/121.412 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

A native of New Zealand, McLaughlin is one of seven drivers eligible for the series championship with two races remaining, 54 points behind teammate/leader Will Power. A driver must be within 54 points of the leader after this event to remain eligible for the title on Sunday, Sept. 11, during the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in California.

“We know the rules. We’re Penske drivers,” said McLaughlin, addressing the team’s latest intramural squabble. “We know that when we get employed what we need to do. When the team wins, we all win. 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 by winning 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.

“I’m feeling really good in the car. We’re building on to really good things for next year. I’m really proud of this group. These guys and these gals work very hard and I’m very proud of them. It’s a really big testament to them.”

McLaughlin earned his first career series victory from P1 at the season-opener in late February on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and finished second after claiming his second career pole in August on the Streets of Nashville.

“Credit to everyone at Team Penske,” said McLaughlin, a three-time Australian V8 Supercars Series champion. “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.”

Live broadcast coverage of Sunday’s 110-lapper at Portland International Raceway starts at 3 p.m. (EDT) on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden qualified second at 58.3129-seconds/121.249 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. However, Newgarden will start eighth due to a six-spot grid penalty issued this week by the sanctioning body for an unapproved engine change after the race Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway. Newgarden _ who won the season’s final oval-track event in Madison, Ill., outside St. Louis _ is second in the championship, trailing Power by just three points.

Power, the 2014 series champion from Australia, qualified third at 58.4254-seconds/121.016 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet but will start on the front row next to teammate McLaughlin due to Newgarden’s penalty.

Power is well-aware he and Scotty Mac will need to “play nice” heading into PIR’s tight and treacherous Turn 1 complex.

“This is the worst first corner in the whole series,” Power said. “I don’t know what the answer is to creating a bit more of a spread among the field. But watching the junior categories I don’t know if that’s good. It’s really packing everyone in tight. It’s hard to say. You’re at the mercy of all the guys behind you and just hoping they do the right thing.

“It’s such an inviting corner. As we’ve seen in the races this weekend, in the first turn of the junior categories, there has been a lot of mayhem even for the pole-sitter. That’s something like luck of the draw almost.”

Team Penske’s dominance may have been hatched during a private, multi-team test session on Friday, Aug. 26, around PIR’s 1.964-mile/12-turn permanent 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.

“It’s a big effort from all the engineering staff and the mechanics,” said Newgarden, the series champ in 2017 and 2019. “They really put a big emphasis on this weekend and tried to get ahead last week. We did an amazing job with that.

“I just totally whiffed (in qualifying) on Turn 7 on my quick lap there, so I dropped maybe two-tenths. That’s the difference, but Scott did a great job. He’s been on it all weekend, same as Will. All three of us have been on top of each other, which has been great for this team. We’re in a great spot for (Sunday). I’m really disappointed in myself. I wish I had executed that lap a little better.”

Rookie of the Year point-leader Christian Lundgaard was the quickest non-Penske driver, qualifying fourth at 58.4482-seconds/120.969 mph in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Lundgaard, a native of Denmark, earned a third consecutive spot in the Firestone Fast Six as RLL continued its second-half resurgence.

Reigning series champion and 2021 Portland race-winner Alex Palou of Spain qualified fifth at 58.5075-seconds/120.846 mph in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou is fifth in the standings, 43 points behind Power.

Title contender Pato O’Ward completed the Firestone Fast Six with a top lap of 58.6090-seconds/120.637 mph in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward, a native of Mexico, is seventh in the championship, 58 points behind Power.

Five of seven drivers in contention for the Astor Challenge Cup advanced into the Firestone Fast Six. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, and Marcus Ericsson of Sweden were the exceptions, exiting after the first round of time trials.

Six-time series champion Dixon _ 14 points behind Power in third _ qualified 16th at 58.2628-seconds/121.354 mph in the No. 9 Bank CGR Honda. Ericsson, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion who is 17 points behind Power in fourth, placed 18th at 58.3064-seconds/121.263 mph in the No. 8 PNC Bank Honda.

Benjamin Pedersen continued his march toward his first career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory by qualifying on-pole Saturday for the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland.

Pedersen turned a lap of 1-minute, 3.6698-seconds in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD entry for his first series pole. He also posted the quickest laps in both practice sessions this weekend on the 1.964-mile/12-turn permanent road-course.

Pedersen, a native of Denmark, will start Sunday’s 35-lap race alongside teammate Danial Frost, who ran 1:03.7830 in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car. Green flag for the 12-car field is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. (EDT) on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

“I’m so happy to get this first pole at what feels like home,” Pedersen said. “I grew up in Seattle, so I really appreciate all of the support. I’ve been working so hard for this for a long time, so (we have) a lot of momentum right now. Now the next focus is to win the race.”

Pedersen has scored three second-place finishes this season. “(I want) a good start,” Pedersen said. “I don’t want to think quite yet how (the tight Turn 1) is going to map-out, but I’ll just try to check out and try to do my own race. Yeah, I’m excited.”

The fastest four drivers qualified within two-tenths of a second of one another. Frost will attempt to score his second series victory. His first came in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course.

Andretti Autosport’s Christian Rasmussen qualified third in the No. 28 Road to Indy/Stellrecht entry at 1:03.8546.

Meanwhile, series point-leader Linus Lundqvist, driver of the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing, will try to clinch the season championship starting from the fourth grid position. His qualifying lap was 1:03.8606.

Winner of five races this season, Lundqvist will clinch the title heading into next week’s season-ending doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca if he leaves Portland with at least a 109-point lead. He will start Sunday’s race with a 108-point advantage over Matthew Brabham, son of former IMSA and INDYCAR driver Geoff Brabham and grandson of three-time Formula One World Driving Champion Sir Jack Brabham.

A native of Australia, Brabham drove past pole-sitter Lundqvist to win the series’ most recent event on the World Wide Technology Raceway oval in Madison, Ill. Brabham qualified sixth in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport entry at 1:04.2610. He will start alongside teammate Sting Ray Robb in the third row. Robb qualified the No. 2 Sekady car at 1:03.9390 on his 21st birthday.

Hunter McElrea and Brabham each have two race wins this season, while Frost and Rasmussen have one each.

Flinn Lazier, son of 1996 Indianapolis 500 and 2000 INDYCAR champion Buddy Lazier, will make his series debut in the No. 15 Abel Motorsports entry from the 12th position.

Qualifying Saturday for the Grand Prix of Portland NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.964-mile/12-turn Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.(3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 58.2349 (121.412)
2. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 58.3129 (121.249)
3. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 58.4254 (121.016)
4. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 58.4482 (120.969)
5. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 58.5075 (120.846)
6. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 58.6090 (120.637)
7. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 58.3475 (121.177)
8. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 58.3925 (121.084)
9. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 58.3983 (121.072)
10. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 58.4038 (121.061)
11. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 58.4475 (120.970)
12. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 58.5356 (120.788)
13. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 58.4865 (120.889)
14. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 58.1988 (121.487)
15. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 58.5097 (120.842)
16. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 58.2628 (121.354)
17. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 58.5332 (120.793)
18. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 58.3064 (121.263)
19. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 58.6898 (120.471)
20. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 58.4398 (120.986)
21. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 58.7534 (120.340)
22. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 58.6058 (120.643)
23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 59.1933 (119.446)
24. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 58.6127 (120.629)
25. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 59.0082 (119.821)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 4 2022
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