Newgarden takes dramatic pole in closing seconds at Detroit

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Josef Newgarden saved the best for last, winning the Pole Position for the Detroit Grand Prix on his final flying lap of qualifying Saturday at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

Newgarden’s top lap in the Firestone Fast Six was 1 minute, 15.2153 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. It was his first pole of the season and his first Pole Position since the season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in September 2021. A different driver has won the pole at all seven IndyCar races this season.

“I was loose; I was about hitting the wall every corner,” two-time series champion Newgarden said of his pole lap on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit. “I think we needed two laps to get temperature (in the Firestone tires). I was just struggling to build temp.

“It was so loose, and I was like, ‘You’ve just got to stay in it.’ I knew the track was grippier. That was a good pole. Sometimes the car is just so good that it’s hooked up. I was loose today, and we put it together. I’m really proud of the team.”

Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato will join Newgarden in the front row of the race after his top lap of 1:15.3490 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda, one of two cars from Dale Coyne Racing that made the Firestone Fast Six.

2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud led a Meyer Shank Racing monopoly of the second row, qualifying third at 1:15.3951 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will start fourth after his best lap of 1:15.4538 in the No. 06 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda.

2022 Indy 500 runner-up Pato O’Ward will start fifth at 1:16.3301 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, while rookie David Malukas rounded out the Firestone Fast Six with a best lap of 1:16.6104 in the No. 18 HMD Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports. It was a career-high starting spot for Malukas, whose previous best was 13th last month for the Indianapolis 500.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon, 2022 race winner Colton Herta and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi were prevented from their final attempt to advance to the Firestone Fast Six when Romain Grosjean crashed in the final seconds of the second round of qualifying.

Grosjean’s No. 28 Zapata/DHL Honda clipped the barrier inside Turn 12, breaking a toe link in the suspension and causing the car to spin and make contact with the barrier on the outside of the corner. Grosjean was unhurt, but the car suffered heavy damage.

“It was a decent hit,” Grosjean said. “We sucked. I don’t know why. We were really good in FP1 (Friday), really good this morning, and the car let go. I don’t know why.”

Herta will start seventh in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, Dixon ninth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Rossi 11th in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Rossi was quickest overall in pre-qualifying practice Saturday morning.

Another driver who missed out on the Firestone Fast Six was Marcus Ericsson, winner of the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge last Sunday. He will start eighth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, a victim of the traffic jam of drivers trying to find track position for a final flying lap.

Kyle Kirkwood, Will Power and reigning series champion Alex Palou were the highest-profile drivers not to advance to the second round of qualifying.

Kirkwood will start 15th as his eventful weekend continues. He led practice Friday, but his No. 14 ROKiT/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet nosed into the tire barrier in Turn 7 after side-to-side contact with Malukas during practice Saturday morning.