Scott McLaughlin led a qualifying attack by Team Penske, take first place on the starting grid for Sunday’s Portland IndyCar Grand Prix.
Teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power took the next two spots in qualifying, although Newgarden will start eighth due to a grid penalty. This will put McLaughlin and Power’s Dallara Chevrolets side-by-side on the front row and enter Portland’s treacherous Turn 1.
“Thanks to everyone on Team Penske,” McLaughlin told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “We weren’t great here last year, but we came back here with three hot rods. We all push each other, Will, Josef and I. Of course, getting pole is a great thing. The Chevy power is great. I’m looking forward to the race.”
INDY CAR IN PORTLAND: Details to watch Sunday on NBC
All three drivers are fighting for the championship with two races left. Power leads the table by three points over Newgarden.
Unlike his teammates, McLaughlin is aiming for his first title and said the rules for how Roger Penske’s cars compete are clear.
“We know what we have to do when we get hired,” said McLaughlin, who took a point with the pole and is now 53 points behind. “If the team wins, we all win. For me, I just need to focus on what I’m doing. If I can be up front and take points from others by winning, that’s exactly what we want to achieve.
“Until I finish the math I want to keep going hard and try to win races. I feel really good in the car. We’re building on really good things for next year. I’m really proud of this group. These guys and gals work very hard and I’m very proud of them. It’s a really big testimony for them.”
It is McLaughlin’s third pole position this season. He won after starting first in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. and finished second from pole on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee last month.
Two other championship contenders made it into the Fast Six’s final qualifying round: Alex Palou (fourth) and Pato O’Ward (fifth).
Teammates Scott Dixon (16th) and Marcus Ericsson (18th) need to keep their championship bids alive while starting lower in the pack. Both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers were eliminated in the first qualifying round.
All competitors will be on guard on the first lap as there are frequent green flag contacts at Portland’s Turn 1.
“It’s definitely the most unpredictable” corner in IndyCar, Newgarden said. “If it goes according to plan, it’s fine. Most of the time that doesn’t happen.”
Said Power: “Yeah, such a bad corner. Such a welcoming wide corner. Not ideal for the penultimate race of the season.”
IndyCar officials circulated a memo to drivers and teams Saturday afternoon detailing starting procedures for Sunday’s race.
The acceleration zone for the pole-sitter will be the exit of Turn 12 (the last corner) and drivers who take a shortcut at the apex of Turn 2 will need to make every effort to use the second exit chicane of Turn 1.
Here’s the IndyCar grid for Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix at the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed):
1. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 58.2349 (121.412)
2nd (12) Willpower, Chevrolet, 58.4254 (121.016)
3rd (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 58.4482 (120.969)
4th (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 58.5075 (120.846)
5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 58.6090 (120.637)
6th (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 58.3475 (121.177)
7th (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 58.3925 (121.084)
8. (2) Joseph Newgarden, Chevrolet, 58.3129 (121.249)–**
9. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 58.3983 (121.072)
10. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 58.4038 (121.061)
11th (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 58.4475 (120.970)
12. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 58.5356 (120.788)
13th (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 58.4865 (120.889)
14. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 58.1988 (121.487)
15th (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)
**–Penalty of six starting positions for an engine penalty
IndyCar grid in Portland: Scott McLaughlin on pole as Penske reigns originally appeared on NBCSports.com