Rosenqvist, Palou win poles for Sunday’s thermal heats
Rosenqvist, Palou win poles for Sunday’s thermal heats

Meyer Shank Racing claimed its first NTT IndyCar Series pole on Saturday as new team leader Felix Rosenqvist put the No. 60 Honda atop a split field of drivers for Sunday morning’s opening race with a lap of 1m38.583s.

Among the 14 drivers in Rosenqvist’s field, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was second, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay was third, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard was fourth, and the rest of the Penske trio in Josef Newgarden and Will Power completed the top six with drivers having to use an extra and brief boost in horsepower from pushing to pass.

“When we showed up here, people were eating ice cream and it was cold, and now it feels normal,” Rosenqvist told RACER about the transition from open testing to qualifying. “Because no one has done that — like the push-to-pass deal — like, you’re one and done. If you need to screw up this lap, you’re back there. I think it’s pretty cool.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palu led the other half of the starting grid for Sunday’s second race, going around the 17-turn circuit with a lap of 1m38.567s in the No. 10 Honda to lead the 13-driver field in his field. Palu was overshadowed in second by teammate Marcus Armstrong, RLL’s Graham Rahal, Ganassi’s Linus Lundqvist, MSR’s Tom Blomqvist and RLL’s Pietro Fittipaldi in sixth.

A crash by Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson capped off a bad day for the team and with a red flag to take out the Swede’s unscathed car, the remaining drivers had an out lap and a flying lap to try and dislodge Arrow McLaren’s Callum Ilott from pole. Pallu was ripe for the challenge.

“I love it,” Palu said. “Those are the best moments, honestly. The tires are cooked. No more push-to-pass. You don’t have much time, but it’s great. That’s what we love about motorsport, when it goes right and when it goes wrong.”

With fields set for both heats, Sunday’s action will follow a tight schedule as IndyCar operates within the live television window offered by NBC.

“Each heat race will consist of 10 laps or be timed at 20 minutes,” IndyCar wrote. “Laps under a full yellow circle will not count, but the race clock will continue. A lap is considered completed when the leader crosses the start-finish line. The position of the cars on the track will be determined by the last time line crossed on the track at the time of full yellow condition of the course.

“A new set of Firestone Firehawks will be distributed to the hotshots. Pit stops will be permitted for emergency service only. Tires used during qualifying will be the only approved spare tires and must be approved by IndyCar. A car making a correction that is not considered emergency in nature will be disqualified. As with qualifying, cars will be given a 40 second push to pass each race.”

Once the top six finishers from each heat have been identified, the event’s grand finale will take place.

“The first six cars to advance from each heat race will make up the 12-car field for the $1 million challenge,” IndyCar continued. “The grid position and odd starting positions are determined by the winner of the race with the fastest qualifying time taking the pole, and the rest of this race is arranged in positions 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. The final will consist of 20 laps divided into two sprint segments of 10 laps each with a 10-minute ‘half-time’ break after completing lap 10.’

During half-time, all cars will be fueled and teams will be able to adjust tire pressures and wing settings. After halftime, IndyCar will reset the 40-second push-to-pass for the field.

Coverage of the $1 Million Challenge heats begins at 9:30am PT.



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