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Colton Herta claims NTT P1 Award for Grand Prix of Portland

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Colton Herta. Photo by Joe Skibinski


Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

PORTLAND, Oregon – A trio of NTT IndyCar Series championship contenders facing challenging starting positions in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland was the only thing to possibly upstage what rookie Colton Herta did at Portland International Raceway.

Colton Herta. Photo by Chris Owens

Herta, the second-generation Indy car standout driving for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, put his No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda on the pole for the second time this season. Herta won the NTT P1 Award by besting pole whiz Will Power of Team Penske (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) with a final lap of 57.8111 seconds (122.302 mph).

Herta, the second-generation Indy car standout driving for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, put his No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda on the pole for the second time this season. Herta won the NTT P1 Award by besting pole whiz Will Power of Team Penske (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) with a final lap of 57.8111 seconds (122.302 mph).

Power, who said he flat-spotted his tires on the next-to-last lap of the Firestone Fast Six round, settled for a lap of 57.8303 seconds (122.261 mph) as the two drivers exchanged the top spot three times in the final seconds of qualifying.

RESULTS: Grand Prix of Portland qualifying

“We left it right until the end, so everyone was all tense, and I think that made it much sweeter,” Herta said. “Before I knew we won the pole position, I went on the radio and heard everyone cheering so to find out that way was really cool.”

Colton Herta. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Herta, 19, became the youngest pole winner in Indy car history when he topped qualifying June 22 at Road America. He became the youngest race winner when he took the checkered flag March 24 at Circuit of The Americas.

Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Honda) was the only member of the four championship contenders to reach the Firestone Fast Six. He qualified third at 57.8355 seconds (122.250 mph), meaning the top three qualifiers had best laps separated by 0.0244 of a second.

The top three in the standings — Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Chevrolet) of Team Penske along with Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – all struggled in qualifying. Newgarden and Pagenaud didn’t advance from the first round of knockout qualifying and will start 13th and 18th, respectively, in a 23-car field. Rossi qualified seventh.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Chris Owens

Given the narrowness of the 12-turn, 1.964-mile circuit and its imposing first corner, all three must be alert to first-lap trouble that has collected so many talented drivers in the past. Last year, a crash in Turn 3 collected five cars, including Dixon, who somehow kept his engine running and emerged from the heavy cloud of dust to stay on the lead lap. He finished fifth even with a pit road speeding penalty.

“You always have to believe – and you have to fight,” Pagenaud said. “Anything can happen; we saw that last year.”

Newgarden enters Sunday’s 105-lap race with a 38-point lead over Pagenaud. His margin over Rossi is 46 points, and 70 ahead of Dixon.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Stephen King

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Newgarden said of qualifying. “You just can’t make a mistake, and I made a couple of them there. I got wide on the curb coming off (Turn) 7 and probably dropped a tenth (of a second) on one lap and dropped another tenth on the final corner on the next.

“It was going to be close and you just can’t afford (to lose) a tenth. That’s Portland. That’s how it was last year; I knew it was going to be the same this year.”

Rossi missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0277 seconds.

“It’s another indication of how close the NTT IndyCar Series is,” he said. “You’ve got to nail it every lap of every session. We missed it, but we’ll have to get after it tonight and make it better.”

Sunday’s live race coverage on NBC begins at 3 p.m. ET (noon PT local) with the green flag at approximately 3:45 p.m. Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).

The Grand Prix of Portland is the penultimate race of the NTT IndyCar Series season. The 17th and final race will be the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 22.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Grand Prix of Portland Qualifying

Top-10 Qualifiers

1st – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “I am so happy! We left it right until the end, so everyone was all tense and I think that made it much sweeter. Before I knew we won the pole position I went on the radio and heard everyone cheering, so to find out that way was really cool. This is awesome. We have really great race pace, so I think we can take the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda car to victory lane!”

2nd – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The lockup screwed me. Flat spotted the tire. Any left-handers, you really paid for it. But still happy to be P2 in the Verizon Chevy.  It was my fault for not warming the brakes a bit more.  It is tough when you have to pump them out straight-away. P2 – you can definitely win from there.  We need a win. We will go for it tomorrow. Colton owes me a win from COTA so maybe he will let me go.”

3rd – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Honestly the biggest struggle we had was going from set to set of tires and making the adjustments. We nearly got knocked out of the second qualifying segment. We had some additional understeer later on in the runs. Obviously, we have a good starting spot and the top three in the championship aren’t up there with us, so we have to make the most out of every point we can grab tomorrow from them in the race with PNC Bank car.”

4th – JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “We are a part-time team, so to get into the Firestone Fast Six, it’s a really great accomplishment for everyone at Meyer Shank Racing. We have learned some really great things this weekend and we have progressed really well and the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM car has been fast. We had a good race brewing here last year, but a yellow flag hurt us. We put ourselves in a good position to try to replicate last year’s race. I’m proud of what this team has achieved and hopefully we can finish a couple of spots better tomorrow and end up on the podium.”

5th – FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a tough and close qualifying session. Every stage there was just thousandths of a second separating everyone. I didn’t really feel 100 percent with the car and with my driving. It didn’t feel like we had a pole car in the NTT DATA Honda, but we have a great starting spot to get to the podium.”

6th – RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I think we had a pretty good day all-in-all. We made some gains in the car going into qualifying. In Group 1, we were up there in the front and then in Round 2 we advanced to the (Firestone) Fast Six, so that was good. In the Fast Six, we thought just for the sake of being different, rolling the dice and trying to go for a strategy that was different than the others and went for (Firestone) black primaries. It wasn’t the flavor of choice this afternoon. The other five in the Fast Six were all on the (Firestone) Reds. We were kind of the sitting duck on Blacks. It is what it is and we tried to go for it. Tomorrow the DHL team is going to put forth 110 percent and go for the win.”

7th – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “We made some changes ahead of the second session. We wouldn’t have made those changes if we didn’t think it was the right decision to get us in to the Firestone Fast Six. I think missing out on advancing is an indication to how close the NTT IndyCar Series is and you have got to nail it every lap of every session. We missed it but we will get after tonight and make the car better.”

8th – JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):“Honestly I’m pretty disappointed with eighth. I think we had a lot more in the No. 5 Arrow car. That second set of red tires [Firestone alternates] had way more understeer than we were expecting. The balance was a little better in the first round… we even added front wing to try to take care of it, but the fronts just didn’t hold on for us. With how close the times are, you have to be absolutely perfect. We set our best time on Lap 3, the tires were definitely better on Lap 2, so it was just getting used to the handling of the car. Unfortunate, but we can certainly race from there.”

9th – CONOR DALY (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I am honestly just super happy. This has been a tough battle for me obviously getting used to this car and the track. I think we can be super proud of that. The Arrow SPM engineers worked with me on making the car more suitable for me and the way I prefer to drive. It’s a team effort, this game, and we’re in the top 10 which is awesome. I’m just really thrilled to be a part of this operation this weekend and I can’t wait for the race.”

10th – SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet): “We definitely made some improvements today and had our best session of the weekend during qualifying. All of the practice sessions were tough, but it’s encouraging we moved in the right direction when it counted. We still have a few things we want to improve on and get better at, but overall we are pleased with where we will be starting.”

Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with qualifying position):

MARCO ANDRETTI (Qualified 16th – No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda): “It’s like we have been just on the wrong side of that tenth of a second that put us out. The whole field is so competitive and the times are just so tight. The lap time that I did [in Round 1, Group 2] was actually faster than some of the [Firestone] Fast Six times [from Round 2]. We are just on the wrong side of that tenth. We’ll have some work to do with the Oberto Circle K car tomorrow, but we’ll fight hard and work to gain some spots.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (Qualified 12th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We were working a P2 qualifying lap when we had a fuel issue. We’re not sure what caused it, but it wasn’t engine-related. The No. 18 SealMaster Honda had good pace. The guys did a good job. We had a Firestone Fast Six car. Things happen, that’s racing. We’ll get after it tomorrow, do the best we can and get the best result possible.”

MAX CHILTON (Qualified 20th – No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “We obviously aren’t happy with our qualifying result today for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. It’s difficult because I felt like my fast lap was one of the best laps I’d done in a long time. The car felt really strong and I was honestly surprised when they told me where we’d ended up. We just need to have a look tonight at all of the data and try to find what’s missing and what we need to do work our way to the front tomorrow.” 

SANTINO FERRUCCI (Qualified 14th – No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “Qualifying went well but we just didn’t have enough in our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda today. We’re trying really hard, but the margins are so small here between all cars and we didn’t have what it takes to move into the next round. We’ll start from 14th and just have to pass some cars. Our race cars have normally been good all year, so I’m not too worried about it for tomorrow.”

ED JONES (Qualified 23rd – No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet):“It is a disappointing qualifying result, for sure. We had expected to be much higher up and it’s surprising how it ended up. We will definitely have our work out for us tomorrow, but hopefully we can have a good strategy and get back towards the other end of the field.”

TONY KANAAN (Qualified 19th – No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s kind of bittersweet because if you look at the lap times, we’re only a tenth-and-a-half from the top 12. That’s the closest we’ve been all year. We improved the car a lot but it’s that little bit. I’m happy because the boys did everything right, we timed qualifying right to have the right tire choice. We went quicker than we went in the morning, so it was a step in the right direction. I’m excited. I think we’re coming from a great momentum, everybody’s uplifted (from Gateway) and I’m excited for tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (Qualified 22nd – No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m disappointed with our qualifying result for sure. I don’t think Max or I like being 20th or 22nd, but I’d say we’ve gotten more competitive over the course of the weekend. I really appreciate all of the work the (No.) 23 Carlin crew has put in, especially getting me back up to speed with turning right and making the No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet better and better every session. We definitely have more to show for tomorrow. We were able to come from 25th to seventh last year, so I’m confident we can go from 22nd to the top 10 again this year. It’s just going to come down to smart strategy calls and good speed when we need it.”

MATHEUS LEIST (Qualified 21st – No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):“Practice 3 was actually decent and gave us some direction and some things to think about. In qualifying I think my black tire pace was pretty good, but we didn’t have a good run on the reds and that was it. We’re going to work on the reds (setup) for tomorrow and see if we can have a good race.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (Qualified 13th – No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “I knew it was going to be tough. You just can’t make a mistake and I made a couple of them there. I got wide on the curb coming off of (Turn) 7 and probably dropped a tenth (of a second) on one lap and dropped another tenth on the final corner on the next. It was going to be close, and you just can’t afford a tenth. That’s Portland – that’s how it was last year. I knew it was going to be the same way this year, but our Hitachi Chevy is good. It was fast all weekend and Chevy has done a great job. We’ve just got to race hard.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (Qualified 18th – No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We just don’t have the speed – we lacked a little bit of speed there in qualifying. It’s about putting the lap together and I think it was very difficult to do so. It’s a shame. You don’t want to be here but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to fight your way and we’ll fight strong in the race in the Menards Chevy. We’ve got a really good car on long runs. I’ve got a fantastic crew on the pit stops and an amazing strategist. Anything can happen – you saw it last year. You’ve just got to fight.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (Qualified 15th – No. 15 One Cure Honda): “We go on about impeding progress and that’s a big thing in qualifying. The first lap, second lap maximum are where these tires are their best. To start my first flyer, I was six seconds behind him (Veach) and to finish it, I was under one second.  To be five seconds off on your first flyer is ridiculous and it killed our run.  And the lap was solid, it was a low nine (57.9), so I knew I had to finish it but then I was up his gearbox and that was it. I’m disappointed. On the blacks (primary tires) in particular, I thought our car was very good. I think we were less than a tenth off.  The One Cure machine is going to have some work to do tomorrow. I think our race car will be good though.”

TAKUMA SATO (Qualified 17th – No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “We tried to have a good qualifying (run) but it seems that we didn’t have enough speed to get into the next round. The field is extremely tight. We’re talking about two-hundredths of a second to make it to the next segment.  We thought we had quite a good car today so it’s a shame that we didn’t move on, but I feel very positive for the race. We will try to make tomorrow a good one.”

ZACH VEACH (Qualified 11th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Qualifying was a pretty good session for us. This morning we made changes that we weren’t really happy with and ended up 16th. We unloaded in qualifying with a car that was much better and it just kept coming to us. I feel bad for the guys because we were on a lap that should have put us in the (Firestone) Fast Six. We were well past the point we needed to be at for the Fast Six, but I kept pushing for more and dropped the wheel and lost three or four tenths (of a second). It’s my fault that we are starting 11th when we have a car that should be starting in the top six or at least the top 10.”

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