Alexander Rossi wins pole at Watkins Glen

Alexander Rossi gets his first IndyCar pole
Alexander Rossi gets his first IndyCar pole
Adriano Manocchia

Andretti Autosport Honda driver Alexander Rossi turned a lap of 1m22.464s to win his first-ever IndyCar pole position.

Saving his best for last, Rossi nipped Ganassi Honda driver Scott Dixon by just 0.05 sec. on his final circuit of the 3.3-mile historic Watkins Glen circuit.

Points leader Josef Newgarden was a close third in his Penske Chevy while Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top-5 in their Hondas.

Rossi used the harder black Firestone tires to win pole and was happy to finally put it all together when it counted.

"Since May Jeremy Milless my engineer and I have really started to click but for one reason or another we came close but did not win a pole until today."

By winning the pole, Rossi denied Scott Dixon the chance to edge closer to championship leader Josef Newgarden in the point standings. Dixon settled for the second starting spot with a lap of 1:22.5168 (147.025 mpg) in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda that nipped Newgarden by a ten-thousandth of a second.

Dixon is the only driver to reach all eight Firestone Fast Six rounds contested this season and has earned a top-five starting position in each of his eight visits to Watkins Glen. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver also broke his own track record in the second round of qualifying today with a lap of 1:22.4171 (147.202 mph).

Newgarden, who holds a 31-point lead over Dixon, will start third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet following his lap of 1:22.5169 (147.024 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six. Takuma Sato, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, qualified fourth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:22.5660, 146.937 mph).

Charlie Kimball qualified fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda (1:22.8081, 146.507 mph), with Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:23.3350, 145.581 mph). Castroneves is third in the championship with two races left in the season, 42 points behind teammate Newgarden.

Newgarden, Dixon, Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud (qualified 12th), Will Power (qualified eighth), Graham Rahal (qualified 10th), Rossi and Sato all are mathematically alive for the championship.

Following a 30-minute warmup practice at 9 a.m. ET Sunday (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com), the 60-lap INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen is set for that afternoon.

Quotes

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's a little disappointing for sure not to advance to the Firestone Fast Six. We've been quick here in the Menards Chevrolet all weekend and I'm not sure exactly why, but we just couldn't find that same speed in second round qualifying. Starting 12th, I think we'll have the opportunity to move up quickly tomorrow, and with weather as a factor, you never know what can happen. We'll be working hard to get the best result we can, for sure."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet): "I'm not sure that any of us on the DeVilbiss Chevy team thought we'd be in that fight for the pole, but we certainly were. I think we had the pole car. Unfortunately, I messed it up in Turn 9. I feel awful about that and I'll beat myself up over it for a bit. I think we're in a good spot for the race tomorrow, though. If we get the weather everyone is calling for, then I'm not sure that anyone knows the best place to be. You would think it's at the front, so I hope that's right."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "Overall, we're proud of qualifying in the top six in the Hitachi Chevy. We thought we were looking pretty good making our way through qualifying, and once we got into the Firestone Fast Six we just didn't have it, especially on the black tires. We know we have a fast car and we are definitely still in the fight there with the other championship contenders. We just need to be smart in the race tomorrow and handle whatever comes our way so we can be there fighting for the win in the end."

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It was very close with Carlos (Munoz), which is nice because we're fighting to be in the top 12, which is good. We just missed it a little bit. I might have just not recognized that we needed the car we had this morning, but we did three laps that were the same; it might have just been a tire pressure thing. Either way when you fight over a small gap like that, I probably could have done something different about it. It's a shame but Carlos is very good at qualifying, so it's good to have him as part of our team because it really pushes me to improve my performance in qualifying. We've always been better in the race, so we'll see what happens."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "A bit disappointed after qualifying. We've kind of been struggling all weekend just to find grip in the car. We've made a lot of changes, and unfortunately they haven't responded the way we were hoping. In qualifying, I actually think we made a big gain from Practice 3 if you look at the relative pace of the guys up front. It still just wasn't quite enough. To go into qualifying making as many changes as we did, I'm proud of the guys and the effort that we put forward. We didn't have a great qualifying last year, but we turned it into what was going to be a good race before the last lap there, so we're down but not out. It's going to be a long race tomorrow, especially if weather comes into play. We're going to regroup tonight and try and figure out how to get the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda up front."

JACK HARVEY (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports AutoNation Sirius XM Honda): "It's my first weekend (in an Indy car on a road course), and obviously a lot of new things to learn; the red (alternate) Firestones, of course, everybody's talked about them all year and what a difference they can make. It's such a high-commitment circuit, and I think, although I've never driven here, there are so many things to know, so many things to learn and I just wanted to execute this weekend. I wanted to push as hard I could without risking the car, and I think qualifying, in the end, went pretty well. I didn't want to be last, and we ticked that off. It's been a weekend where we have been progressing very well, and getting quicker every session. We just have to keep that going for the race and have a solid finish in the AutoNation Sirius XM car."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "I think we may have some sort of issue with the Gallagher car that we haven't found. I was third quickest yesterday and now we're two seconds off the pace with a better track, red tires and pushing a lot more. The time is just not in it. I got through to the Firestone Fast Six last year, we were fast here in testing and this weekend in all the practices. I gave it everything I had and more, but we just couldn't figure out what was wrong. It's going to be a long night as a team to figure it out, but we'll dig deep and be ready for tomorrow."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "It's hard not to be happy with a front-row start here at Watkins Glen in the NTT Data car, but the frustrating part is we had the car, and then some, to get the pole. We caught Helio (Castroneves) so quickly, I'm not exactly sure what happened or what he was thinking. We caught him with, I think, two laps to go, so I'm not sure if we should have backed off sooner or what. I think at the end we had at least another three to four tenths in the car, so we left a lot on the table, for sure, today. So it's frustrating to lose the pole that way when we had so much more. We just straight up didn't get the gap the way we needed to and it cost us. We do have a very strong car for tomorrow and I'm ready to go for sure."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "Obviously we aren't happy with how the No. 10 NTT Data Honda qualified today. We tried something different on the setup for qualifying and it was just too far in the opposite direction. I think the uncertainty of tomorrow's weather might make the race more of a toss-up, so hopefully it'll play into our favor and we'll be able to work through the field quickly and stay up there."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I got a little loose out there in some spots and I think it affected my confidence in some others on if it would stick or not. The Verizon Chevrolet really wasn't as comfortable for me today as yesterday. I don't know if it's the wind. I don't feel like the track changed at all. I can't really pinpoint it right now. I do know that we'll all go to work and take a look at everything to get us in a good place for the race tomorrow. The weather looks to be in question and we won't know the answers to that until we get there. We'll plan for everything and go from there."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "I pushed the car 100 percent, maybe lost one tenth because I got some bad shifting on my quickest lap and I think it cost me a position. When everything is so close, everything has to be perfect. I think it's still a good day. We made some changes for qualifying and it helped a lot. I think tomorrow with all the rain, starting toward the front is better because of all the spray. We'll see how it goes with the weather. When it's raining, it's a lottery race."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "The car has been loose all weekend and we just can't seem to make any headway. I'm just hanging on. It is what it is and I will just have to go race hard tomorrow. I don't think we are close enough yet to a good race set up, but we'll see how it is over the long run."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "The session is not long enough at this track to do a full run on both black (primary) and red (alternate) Firestone tires, so we decided to take the chance and go with the blacks. Yesterday, we didn't do so well in practice on the reds, and I was happy with the car on blacks, and it paid off as were able to get in the fast 12. Unfortunately, I misled the boys a little bit. I thought we would be better than that balance-wise, but the track picked up grip and we picked up understeer. It's not because of the tires or anything. I had a pretty good lap just way too much understeer. "

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I think we improved the car again. That was the closest we've been all weekend. Obviously, it still wasn't enough. I think we were a step behind. If we had practiced with the car like it was in qualifying, we would have been able to take another step forward and maybe be a bit further up, but it's not too bad. Starting 15th, we can work from there and move our way up. It might be a wet race tomorrow, so that could make things really interesting."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "We definitely made a lot of progress in qualifying. We've kind of been hovering around an eighth of a second or a second off the pace, so we closed the gap a lot. That was nice, but once again, we came up just a bit shy from advancing. Usually, if you're within a tenth of Will (Power), you're right up there at the front. A big thanks to all the guys, Fuzzy's Vodka, and Chevrolet for letting me do this. It is another midfield starting spot, but we'll see what we can do tomorrow."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It's been kind of a weird weekend. We've tried a lot of different things and just can't get the speed out of the car we're looking for. It's frustrating because I really like Watkins Glen and the team finished on the podium here last year, so we were hoping for a bit more. We just can't manage to get much better lap times out of it. It's disappointing, but we'll continue plugging away at it for the rest of the weekend. There should be some fuel saving going on tomorrow, so hopefully that is something that works in our favor."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "We tested here a few weeks ago to learn a different philosophies. It seems to be working well for the team. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Marco (Andretti) have been very competitive this weekend and all of us feel very positive. In the end, I want to say congrats to Alexander (Rossi). He did a tremendous job to beat us all. A bit of a shame that we got beaten by a tenth (of a second). The entire Andretti Autosport team worked together and I'm very proud to be a part of it."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "We obviously wanted better out of qualifying today, but I'm struggling in the high-speed corners so the result is on me. The teammates have shown good speeds — and congrats to Alex (Rossi) on his pole, that was a mega lap, but I just haven't been able to put it together. We'll look at everything tonight and may have to get creative with strategy tomorrow, and will have to see what the weather brings. We're starting P20 so we're down, but we're not out."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Just two-hundredths of a second would have put us fifth – two hundredths of a second. It just shows how tight this series is. You always have to get the max out of every corner. We were just on the wrong side of it today. That was really close – really we wanted be in that Firestone Fast Six so we could continue to improve the DHL car. We'll have to go get them tomorrow – we can do that from seventh."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "We had some electrical issues with the engine yesterday that put us a little behind in terms of getting up to speed out there, so I think it says a lot that we were able to come back out today and qualify in the (Firestone Fast Six). The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys did a great job getting the No. 83 fixed before final practice yesterday and then gave me a really good car to go out and qualify today. I'm definitely happy with our run. I think anytime you can finish within a few tenths of a second of Scott Dixon at Watkins Glen, you know you're doing well. I have a lot of faith in our race car and hopefully we can move forward in the field like we did last year when we came from 14th to sixth and get our first win of the season."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): "It was a big lap we needed. The lap before was pretty good, but they came on the radio and said, 'You need at least a tenth.' So, we went for it, dug deep and the NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Honda has been so good since we rolled off. We've never been lower than fifth. It's amazing to finally accomplish this, especially on the back of the announcement on Friday and I think it's been a long time coming, so it's just nice to finally get that. The whole team has been working so hard and they deserve this. This championship, there's so much that can go on. With weather coming, that adds another variable, but we're clicking at a level that we haven't in the past and the momentum is on our side. We just have to capitalize and enjoy this for the next 30 minutes, then focus on the work we have to do tomorrow."

Results

Round 1 Group 1

Pos No Name FTime Diff Gap FSpeed Engine Team
1 98 Alexander Rossi 1:23.080 –.—- –.—- 146.027 Honda Andretti Herta Autosport
2 2 Josef Newgarden 1:23.130 0.0501 0.0501 145.939 Chevy Team Penske
3 3 Helio Castroneves 1:23.209 0.1289 0.0788 145.801 Chevy Team Penske
4 26 Takuma Sato 1:23.248 0.1675 0.0386 145.733 Honda Andretti Autosport
5 83 Charlie Kimball 1:23.278 0.1971 0.0296 145.682 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
6 12 Will Power 1:23.410 0.3300 0.1329 145.449 Chevy Team Penske
7 20 Spencer Pigot 1:23.492 0.4113 0.0813 145.308 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
8 19 Ed Jones 1:23.985 0.9047 0.4934 144.454 Honda Dale Coyne Racing
9 10 Tony Kanaan 1:23.998 0.9178 0.0131 144.432 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
10 8 Max Chilton 1:24.201 1.1208 0.2030 144.083 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing

Round 1 Group 2

Pos No Name FTime Diff Gap FSpeed Engine Team
1 9 Scott Dixon 1:23.038 –.—- –.—- 146.101 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
2 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:23.044 0.0056 0.0056 146.092 Honda Andretti Autosport
3 18 Sebastien Bourdais 1:23.144 0.1062 0.1006 145.915 Honda Dale Coyne Racing
4 15 Graham Rahal 1:23.293 0.2550 0.1488 145.654 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan
5 1 Simon Pagenaud 1:23.327 0.2884 0.0334 145.596 Chevy Team Penske
6 14 Carlos Munoz 1:23.502 0.4640 0.1756 145.290 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
7 4 Conor Daly 1:23.509 0.4707 0.0067 145.278 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
8 5 James Hinchcliffe 1:23.685 0.6472 0.1765 144.972 Honda Schmidt Peterson
9 7 Jack Harvey 1:24.139 1.1008 0.4536 144.190 Honda Schmidt Peterson
10 27 Marco Andretti 1:24.178 1.1397 0.0389 144.123 Honda Andretti Autosport
11 21 JR Hildebrand 1:24.454 1.4161 0.2764 143.652 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing

Round 2

Pos No Name FTime Diff Gap FSpeed Engine Team
1 9 Scott Dixon 1:22.417 –.—- –.—- 147.202 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
2 98 Alexander Rossi 1:22.796 0.3790 0.3790 146.529 Honda Andretti Herta Autosport
3 26 Takuma Sato 1:22.825 0.4083 0.0293 146.477 Honda Andretti Autosport
4 83 Charlie Kimball 1:22.901 0.4843 0.0760 146.343 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
5 3 Helio Castroneves 1:22.966 0.5491 0.0648 146.228 Chevy Team Penske
6 2 Josef Newgarden 1:22.982 0.5651 0.0160 146.200 Chevy Team Penske
7 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:22.985 0.5683 0.0032 146.194 Honda Andretti Autosport
8 12 Will Power 1:23.099 0.6816 0.1133 145.995 Chevy Team Penske
9 18 Sebastien Bourdais 1:23.146 0.7288 0.0472 145.912 Honda Dale Coyne Racing
10 15 Graham Rahal 1:23.224 0.8069 0.0781 145.775 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan
11 14 Carlos Munoz 1:23.296 0.8788 0.0719 145.649 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
12 1 Simon Pagenaud 1:23.298 0.8810 0.0022 145.646 Chevy Team Penske

Fast Six

Pos No Name FTime Diff Gap FSpeed Engine Team
1 98 Alexander Rossi 1:22.464 –.—- –.—- 147.119 Honda Andretti Herta Autosport
2 9 Scott Dixon 1:22.517 0.0529 0.0529 147.025 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
3 2 Josef Newgarden 1:22.517 0.0530 0.0001 147.024 Chevy Team Penske
4 26 Takuma Sato 1:22.566 0.1021 0.0491 146.937 Honda Andretti Autosport
5 83 Charlie Kimball 1:22.808 0.3442 0.2421 146.507 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
6 3 Helio Castroneves 1:23.335 0.8711 0.5269 145.581 Chevy Team Penske

Lineup

Pos Car Driver Make Time Speed Session
1 98 Rossi, Alexander Honda 01:22.4639 147.119 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
2 9 Dixon, Scott Honda 01:22.5168 147.025 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
3 2 Newgarden, Josef Chevy 01:22.5169 147.024 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
4 26 Sato, Takuma Honda 01:22.5660 146.937 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
5 83 Kimball, Charlie Honda 01:22.8081 146.507 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
6 3 Castroneves, Helio Chevy 01:23.3350 145.581 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
7 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan Honda 01:22.9854 146.194 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8 12 Power, Will Chevy 01:23.0987 145.995 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9 18 Bourdais, Sebastien Honda 01:23.1459 145.912 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10 15 Rahal, Graham Honda 01:23.2240 145.775 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
11 14 Munoz, Carlos Chevy 01:23.2959 145.649 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12 1 Pagenaud, Simon Chevy 01:23.2981 145.646 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13 20 Pigot, Spencer Chevy 01:23.4917 145.308 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 4 Daly, Conor Chevy 01:23.5089 145.278 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15 19 Jones, Ed (R) Honda 01:23.9851 144.454 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16 5 Hinchcliffe, James Honda 01:23.6854 144.972 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17 10 Kanaan, Tony Honda 01:23.9982 144.432 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18 7 Harvey, Jack (R) Honda 01:24.1390 144.190 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19 8 Chilton, Max Honda 01:24.2012 144.083 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20 27 Andretti, Marco Honda 01:24.1779 144.123 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21 21 Hildebrand, JR Chevy 01:24.4543 143.652 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
(R) Rookie

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