Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden spoiled the party of Scott Dixon in Saturday’s Firestone Fast Six Qualifying at the Honda Indy Toronto.
The driver of the #1 Hitachi Chevrolet was the last driver to cross the timing line, putting together a lap of 59.4956 seconds, to claim his sixth career pole.
“The Hitachi car has been fast. We haven’t had to do too much. We started a little bit slow, but then found our rhythm this morning,” said Newgarden.
Dixon, who led the way in both of Friday’s practice sessions, will line up alongside Newgarden on the outside of the front row. The driver of the #9 PNC Bank Honda currently holds a 33-point lead in the championship standings over Newgarden.
“I’m a bit disappointed […] at myself for not putting the PNC Bank car on pole position,” said Dixon.
2017 Toronto pole winner Simon Pagenaud, who set a track record in last year’s qualifying session, will line up from third place on the starting grid. The Team Penske driver crossed the line with a time of 59.7630 seconds.
Pagenaud’s teammate, three-time Toronto winner Will Power put together a lap of 59.8818 seconds, giving the Australian a fourth-place start in tomorrow’s race.
The session provided a unique challenge to drivers and teams, as light rain made for damp conditions for the first time this weekend.
Struggling in the changing conditions was hometown hero James Hinchcliffe, who spun going into Turn 8 late in the second qualifying session.
Who knows what that lap could have been… The lap after, we were kind of building on that and we got thrown a curveball, so that’s my fault,” said Hinchcliffe. “I think if we hadn’t had that spin, we might have been able to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six.”
The driver of the #5 Arrow SPM Honda will start this year’s Honda Indy Toronto from ninth. While the position may not be exactly what Hinchcliffe had hopped for going into the weekend, he did admit the car had improved since Friday.
“The Arrow Electronics car was getting better every session. […] Proud of the SPM guys, it’s been a bit of a struggle this weekend.”
Hinchcliffe’s teammate, and fellow hometown driver Robert Wickens will line up alongside the #5 in 10th place.
“Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m just looking forward to putting the helmet back on and racing in front of the hometown crowd,” Wickens said following the session.
While some of the series top stars had mixed feelings about their qualifying efforts, the day wasn’t a complete disappointment for all involved. Conor Daly, driving the #88 Chevrolet for Harding Racing, earned the team just their second appearance in the top 12.