LEXINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – Josef Newgarden’s walk-off flying lap put him on pole for Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but local team Meyer Shank Racing will have to fight from the back of the grid after a close penalty.
With less than a minute left in Saturday afternoon’s dramatic time trials, defending Mid-Ohio winner Colton Herta laid down an impressive lap time of 1:06.6770 in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
But right after Herta crossed the line, Newgarden’s No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, with no time left in the session, beat Herta by just over three-thousandths of a second (0.0031) with a time of 1:06.6739.
It’s the Tennessee native’s 14th career pole and his third straight this season. Saturday also marks exactly 50 years since Team Penske won its first IndyCar race.
“It was going to be hard. You could see how fast these guys were,” Newgarden, 29, told reporters after coming off the 13-turn, 2.258-mile circuit in Morrow County’s rolling hills. “(Herta) was super quick all through qualifying, so it was going to take a really good lap, and thankfully we just put it together.”
“That’s IndyCar. That’s Mid-Ohio. It’s always tight here, so difficult.”
Herta won the second race of last September’s Mid-Ohio doubleheader, but he’ll have to settle for second on the grid.
“You have to think that there’s three-thousandths in it somewhere,” Herta, 21, told reporters. “It’s a little disappointing when you lose by that much.”
Mixed results for local connections
IndyCar road course qualifying is divided into three segments that progressively narrow the field. The first segment splits the field into two groups, and the fastest six cars from each group advance to segment two. Then the fastest six of those 12 cars in segment two advance to the “Fast Six” that fights for pole.
Qualifying began, however, with a small controversy involving Jack Harvey, driver for Pataskala-based Meyer Shank Racing, the only IndyCar team from Ohio.
Harvey, who has made a habit of fast qualifying performances, was second quickest in his segment one group but spun in Turn 9 on his last lap. Because he brought out the caution, his lap was deleted and the No. 60 Honda did not advance.
“If a car causes a yellow-flag condition that interferes with the attempt of another car,” IndyCar procedures state, “the violating car’s best lap during that segment will be disallowed.”
Only two cars were still on track when Harvey spun, and they finished their final laps just seconds after the incident, but race control levied the penalty on the 28-year-old Englishman. He’ll start 23rd on Sunday.
New Albany native Graham Rahal, 32, advanced into segment two but missed the Fast Six by just over one-tenth of a second. His No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda will start eighth.
Rahal won this race in 2015. His current winless streak, dating back to June 2017, sits at 66 races.
Aurora, Ohio, native Ryan Norman qualified his No. 52 Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing Honda 26th of 26 cars. You could forgive the 23-year-old Buckeye, though, as Sunday will be his first career IndyCar start.
Honda Indy 200 starting grid:
IndyCar has seen seven different winners over the last nine races, including four drivers who snagged their first career wins: Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Rinus Veekay, and Marcus Ericsson. The last seven Mid-Ohio races have also seen different winners.
Tickets for Sunday’s race are $55 for general admission (which includes grass seating on the hilly areas around the track) and $65 for grandstand seating. Tickets are $10 more if bought at the gate instead of in advance. Paddock and pit passes are also available. See more ticket details here.
Fans will be treated to four support races on Sunday, with IndyCar feeder series IndyLights, USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 taking the track before the major leaguers. Stadium Super Trucks will race after IndyCar. View the full schedule here.
Honda Indy 200 race details:
- Green flag: Sunday, July 4, 12:05 p.m.
- Length: 80 laps, 180.64 miles
- TV: NBC4
- Radio: IndyCar Radio Network
- Forecast: High 80s, partly cloudy, low chance of rain