Scott McLaughlin won the second pole of his IndyCar career and Romain Grosjean and Christian Lundgaard earned the highest starting points of the season in rainy late qualifying for the Music City Grand Prix.
McLaughlin won the pole in a final by plane around an 11-lap 2.1-mile course in Saturday’s session, which started 90 minutes late due to weather lag, and left a choppy, short qualifying group some drivers grumpy in the heat. Wet Nashville after it rains.
Penske’s team driver was also the fastest in practice on Saturday morning at No. 3 DEX Imaging Chevrolet.
Grosjean qualified second for Andretti Autosport, with three drivers eliminated in the first round of qualifying. Lundgaard was the third career best of Rahal Letterman Lanigan, whose three drivers all advanced to the top 12.
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“Tell you what, this DEX is really good, man,” said McLaughlin. “We were going really fast in this car. She won the St. Pete opener with her. We won mid-Ohio and we are now in pole position in Nashville, which is an amazing racetrack.”
Lundgaard beat a penalty in the second round and locked up a tire in the final round and was able to advance to third place.
The championship contenders had a mixed day with defending champion Alex Ballou, who sits sixth in a six-driver fight, and a top qualifier in fourth. Pato Ward, who is fifth in the standings, only advanced because IndyCar points leader Will Power came out in the final sixth round to foul O’Ward’s lap when he derailed in the top 12.
The penalty kick stripped Bauer of his fastest lap and Oward took his place. Power leads by nine points over defending champion Marcus Ericsson, and just 52 points separate Power from Ballou with Sunday’s race one of the last four of the season.
“We can have a great day tomorrow,” Bauer said of the eighth start. “Get a good strategy, good stops and see what we have.”
Joseph Newgarden of Pensky, who finished third in the standings, qualified for sixth.
Ericsson and Scott Dixon, fourth in the standings, failed to get out of the first round. Dixon will start 14th and Ericsson 18th, where he started in last year’s victory.
Colton Hertha crashed in the first set of round one to display a red flag at the end of the session that spoiled several drivers, including teammate Alexander Rossi.
“A little too ambitious for what the conditions were. After it rained a lot of this kind of fist fell away, just trying to find the right braking point, and I got over it too much,” said Herta. “I apologize to my team, and especially to Andretti, because I think I may have spoiled Rossi very well there too. And maybe some of the other players.
“I’m not trying to do it on purpose, and that was a really downright mistake, so I feel bad for everyone involved.”
The drivers were pissed off after the first set because it was too short. Before Herta’s turn, Andretti Autosport’s rookie Devlin DiFrancesco also rotated to take out the yellow who had spent three of the scheduled 10 minutes in the qualifying group.
It meant that most of the drivers who got off the tour barely had a chance to do a qualifying round.
“Man, I am so frustrated. This is not the sport, man,” Simon Pagenaud, who will start in 13th, said. “We can wait all day for the storm to pass, but they don’t give us enough time to get behind. It’s incredible. I can not Talk.
“It’s a shame you can’t perform at your level. We’re going to start over where we don’t belong. A lot of guys don’t belong there up front.”
Felix Rosenqvist, who crashed earlier on Saturday, felt his lap was going to push him before being stopped by Hertha’s crash.
“Just annoying,” Rosenqvist said. “I didn’t even have a lap. We had a kind of friendly lap. That’s something we have to look at, maybe we had to go straight and try to do a lap, but it’s annoying when it’s always red flags and we can’t even start the session.”
The short session means that Dalton Kellette has advanced from the first set for the first time in the 37th IndyCar start. He would start his career in 12th place and was embraced by the team and family members when he finished in the top 12 sessions.
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