New Zealand’s IndyCar Series pairing, Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin, have endured mixed fortunes in qualifying for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Indy event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Neither driver was able to make it into the ‘Fast 12’ shootout, with both struggling in their respective groups. Dixon’s chances took the biggest hit when he spun in the dying moments of group two’s session, causing a local yellow flag and seeing his fastest lap removed. McLaughlin will start from 21st, with Dixon even further back in 26th.
Pole position went to Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, with Will Power starting alongside. The star of qualifying though was series debutant Christian Lundgaard. Making his first IndyCar start, the Alpine F1 test driver starred in group two, before briefly sitting on the pole before getting shuffled down to a credible fourth.
“We tried a couple of things from this morning. It was hard because at the end of the practice we didn’t really get a proper run,” Dixon mused.
“It was enjoyable to drive but obviously not very fast, and I think we’ve got a penalty there too … losing our quickest lap so we’re going to the back. It’s definitely going to make for an interesting race tomorrow.
“Tough day for us on our car, but we’ll see how that plays out. Maybe strategy tomorrow, we’ll see. Anything’s possible.”
For McLaughlin meanwhile, he credited the lack of a result to his Car Shop Chevrolet’s changes after practice.
“We just probably went a bit too aggressive on our set-up aerodynamic-wise,” said McLaughlin.
“Too much front wing, car was a bit too loose. When you’re too loose on the first set of tyres, a black, it’s very hard to commit. We’ll keep working […], but unfortunately that’s all we had.”
McLaughlin featured in qualifying group one, which commentators perceived to be at a disadvantage relative to those who would get a more ‘rubbered up’ track in group two. Power, Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, and Graham Rahal were among the others in the opening group.
McLaughlin sat towards the back of the group early, before clocking a 1:12.6214 to sit fifth as the chequered flag approached. He then went to second place with just over one minute to go via a 1:11.6676.
Sadly for McLaughlin, a raft of quick laps were registered. This quickly saw the former Supercars champ tumble down to fifth, then the sixth-place cut-off. By the time he commenced his last attempt at a time he was 10th. With no fairy-tale time coming in the dying moments, the Kiwi ended up 11th in group one.
First in group one went to Power, with Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, Pagenaud, Herta, and Rinus Veekay also advancing.
Dixon featured in qualifying group two, along with series leader and team mate Alex Palau, recent winner Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, and Josef Newgarden.
Dixon was at the pointy end early via a 1:12.4435 opening time on his black tyres. Dixon ended up settling just south of the top-six cusp; falling to eighth despite an improved 1:12.2660. Palau seemed to struggle, too, sitting one place behind Dixon. Grosjean was the early leader, over O’Ward, Ed Jones, and an amazing lap from Jimmie Johnson.
Shifting onto red tyres, the order shuffled wildly. Grosjean held the lead, despite improvements from Newgarden and Ericsson. He was eventually bettered by Alexander Rossi, impressive rookie Lundgaard.
It was an exciting finish to the session, with Dixon at the centre of proceedings. Having briefly entered the top six before being promptly ejected, he was under pressure to make a late improvement. His final lap looked set to be an improvement, until he spun all by himself while pushing hard.
The spin prompted a local yellow flag, abbreviating the session and seeing Dixon lose his fastest time and dropping to the tail of the group. Rossi, Lundgaard, Palau, Ericsson, Grosjean, and O’Ward advanced.
Come the Fast 12 final shootout, and Herta was the early leader before the field progressed into the 1min 11sec bracket. Lundgaard’s incredible rookie pace continued; the series newbie throwing down a 1:11.7329 to take the lead with just over five minutes to go before getting pipped by Veekay.
Grosjean took over the lead with 1min 30sec to go, with Lundgaard jumping to second. With a minute to go, Lundgaard looked set to improve further, as did Palau and Rossi down the order. Palau briefly took first, only to once again get beaten by Grosjean and Lundgaard (the former setting a 1:10.7418 before retiring from the session).
Out of the blue at the end, though, were two incredible laps from O’Ward and Power. The duo spoiled the European front-row late, with O’Ward’s 1:10.7141 snatching pole. Power was second, ahead of Grosjean, the incredible Lundgaard, Herta, Palau, Harvey, Daly, Veekay, Rossi, Ericsson, and Pagenaud in 12th.