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Graham Rahal Takes Pole for the Grand Prix of Portland

Written by Archie O'Reilly

Credit: Chris Owens

Graham Rahal has taken his second pole position in as many road course races, after ending a six-year drought at the Gallagher Grand Prix, and will lead the field to green for the Grand Prix of Portland. Here is how qualifying in the Pacific North-West unfolded…

Round 1 - Group 1

The headline from the opening qualifying group was Christian Lundgaard, who has excelled in road course qualifying this year - with a previous worst of seventh - and was high up in the order through practice, including topping Friday’s session, missing out on transferring after failing to get a clean final lap on a short track where lap times are beneath one minute.

Romain Grosjean, who was announced as not returning to Andretti next year during the session, was another who had issues caused by the shortness of the track, cutting an angry figure as tensions about traffic rose on the pit wall. Rinus VeeKay, who finished eighth and sixth in practice, will have been disappointed to miss out in seventh.

Felix Rosenqvist ultimately led the way in the opening group, followed by Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden within two-tenths of a second. Rahal transferred in fourth, with Will Power and Callum Ilott, whose Juncos Hollinger Racing team haven’t always had the strongest qualifying package this year, also sneaking into the Fast 12.

Credit: Chris Owens

Round 1 - Group 2

There were several big-hitters in the second group, meaning some major drivers were bound to miss out on transferring. Marcus Armstrong missed out on by a fine margin of less than one-tenth of a second, as did Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood in eighth, confirming that Herta was the only Andretti to make it into the latter stages of qualifying.

Alex Palou, who is bidding to wrap up the championship this weekend, led Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward at the chequered flag. Scott Dixon was fourth and Marcus Ericsson sixth for Chip Ganassi Racing, with Alexander Rossi ensuring all three Arrow McLaren cars transferred.

Juri Vips put in a creditable debut performance for ninth, only missing out on transferring by just over one-tenth as he gets to grips with IndyCar competition after not racing in any form this year prior to this weekend.

Tom Blomqvist has, by contrast, been active elsewhere this year, but he failed to get off last spot for Meyer Shank Racing on his second IndyCar weekend. He will be hoping for some more learning in the race after finishing last in every session so far this weekend - including by over two-tenths in qualifying.

Credit: James Black

Fast 12

The second round of qualifying got off to a bad start for Newgarden, who had a strong second practice session, which saw him come home in second-place. He fell foul to the complex at the end of the lap and, as is a rarity for him, ended up with the No.2 car’s nose wedged deep in the tyre barriers, causing a red flag and curtailing the American’s running.

Newgarden’s teammate, McLaughlin, followed the precedent set by topping second practice to transfer in first-place. Power failed to capitalise on the pace found by Penske, however, and a slightly wide moment prevented him from a rare - in terms of this season - Fast 6 appearance.

Herta finished the second round in second-place having been the only Andretti to transfer to the Fast 12, followed by O’Ward, Dixon, Palou and Rahal.

Power missed the cut by the most minor of margins in seventh, followed by Ilott in his first Fast 12 appearance of the season. Rossi and Ericsson couldn’t quite find the pace, while Rosenqvist, who was in place to transfer to the Fast 6 after the first runs, was unable to complete the session due to an issue and ended up 11th, ahead of only Newgarden.

Credit: Joe Skibinski

Fast 6

Rahal’s time set on the primary tyres couldn’t be toppled in the closing stages of the final round of qualifying as he continues his resurgence following the woes of earlier in the season, taking pole for the second time this year. He was denied a win thanks to Dixon’s masterful strategy execution in Indianapolis three weeks ago, but he now has another big chance to return to the top step of the podium.

McLaughlin came closest to denying Rahal his second consecutive road course pole - a mere three-hundredths of a second behind the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver. The Kiwi has now qualified in the top two in six of the last seven races.

Herta produced another strong qualifying effort for third, with Dixon leading teammate Palou as he bids to continue a 17-year streak for the series and take the championship to the final round. O’Ward is the lead McLaren in sixth.

The final qualifying order, before any penalties are applied, is as follows:

  1. Graham Rahal

  2. Scott McLaughlin

  3. Colton Herta

  4. Scott Dixon

  5. Alex Palou

  6. Pato O’Ward

  7. Will Power

  8. Callum Ilott

  9. Alexander Rossi

  10. Marcus Ericsson

  11. Felix Rosenqvist

  12. Josef Newgarden

  13. Rinus VeeKay

  14. Marcus Armstrong

  15. Romain Grosjean

  16. Kyle Kirkwood

  17. Christian Lundgaard

  18. Juri Vips

  19. Ryan Hunter-Reay

  20. Agustin Canapino

  21. Devlin DeFrancesco

  22. Helio Castroneves

  23. Santino Ferrucci

  24. David Malukas

  25. Sting Ray Robb

  26. Benjamin Pedersen

  27. Tom Blomqvist


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