NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Scott McLaughlin won the second pole of his IndyCar career, and Romain Grosjean and Christian Lundgaard secured their best grid spots of the season on the grid for Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
McLaughlin won pole in a flying final run around the 2.1-mile, 11-corner circuit in Saturday’s session, which started 90 minutes late due to weather delays, and a sloppy, shortened first qualifying group left some riders with rage in the Steamy heat, humid Nashville post-rain conditions.
The Penske team driver was also fastest in practice on Saturday morning. The New Zealand native opened the season with a win from pole in St. Petersburg, Fla. for his first career win.
INDYCAR AT NASHVILLE: Dates, details to watch this weekend on NBC
“This car was phenomenal,” said McLaughlin of the #3 Dallara Chevrolet. “One of those good laps. Hopefully more of this (Sunday). Head down, butt up and focus on what we need to do.”
Grosjean qualified second for Andretti Autosport, which had three drivers eliminated in the first qualifying round. Lundgaard was a career-best third for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, who put all three of his drivers in the top 12.
Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden rounded out the Fast Six riders who made it to the final qualifying round.
The top five grid positions were represented by five teams: Team Penske, Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren SP.
Lundgaard overcame a penalty on the second lap and locked a tire on the last lap and still managed to qualify third.
The championship contenders had a mixed day with reigning champion Palou sitting sixth in the six-way bout, the highest qualifier (fourth). O’Ward, who is fifth overall, only advanced because IndyCar points leader Will Power was thrown out of the Fast Six for interfering with O’Ward’s lap when he went off course in the top 12.
The penalty robbed Power of his fastest lap and O’Ward took his place. Power is nine points clear of defending champion Marcus Ericsson and just 52 points separate Power from Palou with Sunday’s race being the first of the last four this season.
“We can have a great day tomorrow,” said Power of eighth on the grid. “Get a good strategy, good pit stops and see what we have.”
Third in the table, Josef Newgarden from Penske, qualified sixth.
Ericsson and Scott Dixon, fourth in the table, did not make it out of the first round. Dixon will start 14th and Ericsson 18th, where he started in last year’s win.
“We have to come up with a good strategy and play the race as it comes,” Ericsson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “This weekend there were many incidents like last year. I think there will still be opportunities. We fought all weekend. I don’t have the feeling in the car that I want. The team did a good job in qualifying to do better to my liking and felt like a step in the right direction.
“We simply lack too much speed for the fastest. It’s a bit strange. I will say that in the second practice the car was very consistent to drive. A bit of work tonight, but I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow. I think if there’s someone in that pit lane who can fight back to front then we’re always strong at that. We have that trust.”
Colton Herta crashed in the first group of the first lap to bring out a red flag at the end of the session that ruined the runs of several riders including teammate Alexander Rossi.
“A little too ambitious for the conditions. After it rained a lot of that grip went away, I was just trying to find the right braking point and I just overdid it,” said Herta. “I apologize to my team, especially Andretti, because I think I probably screwed Rossi pretty well there too. And probably a few other guys.
“I’m trying not to do that on purpose, and it really was an honest mistake, so I’m sorry for everyone involved.”
The riders cooked after the first group because it was so short. Ahead of Herta’s spin, Andretti Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco also spun to bring out a yellow chewing three of the 10 scheduled minutes in the qualifying group.
This meant that most of the drivers eliminated in the round had little chance of a qualifying run.
“Man, I’m so frustrated. That’s not the sport, man,” said Simon Pagenaud, who will start 13th. “We can wait all day for the storm to pass, but they don’t give us enough time to put our laps off. It’s amazing. I’m speechless.
“It’s such a shame because you just can’t play at your level. We’ll start again where we don’t belong. A lot of guys don’t belong up front.”
Felix Rosenqvist, who fell in training earlier on Saturday, felt his lap would have taken him forward before being halted by the Herta crash.
“Just annoying,” Rosenqvist said. “I didn’t even have a lap. We had a kind of warm-up lap. We need to look at that, maybe we should have gone straight out and tried to do a lap but it’s annoying when there are always red flags and we can’t even get the session going.”
The shortened session meant Dalton Kellett got out of the first group for the first time in 37 career IndyCar starts. Starting in a career-best 12th place, he was embraced by team and family members as he finished the top 12 session.
Here is the IndyCar grid for Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix at the 2.1-mile, 11-turn street circuit (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time, speed):
1. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:14.5555 (101.401)
2nd (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:14.6975 (101.208)
3. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:14.7149 (101.185)
4th (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:14.9087 (100.923)
5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:14.9261 (100.899)
6. (2) Joseph Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.1461 (100.604)
7th (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:14.9616 (100.852)
8. (12) Willpower, Chevrolet, 01:14.9818 (100.824)
9th (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)
IndyCar Nashville Grid: Scott McLaughlin Wins Pole for Team Penske originally appeared on NBCSports.com