In a frantic Firestone Fast Six that saw the top spot change hands several times, it was defending race winner Josef Newgarden left standing as he took pole for tomorrow afternoon’s race.
With rain sprinkles adding an extra dimension of challenge for the final six drivers, the name of the game was to find the cleanest line through the streets of Toronto as moisture and track rubber made for slick conditions.
Newgarden traded the top spot among Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power throughout the short six-minute session before Dixon laid down a scorching-hot time of 59.692s. The New Zealand native watched as Power, Alexander Rossi, Pagenaud, and Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the line to complete their runs without besting Dixon’s time.
The final car left on track was Newgarden’s red, white and black No. 1 Chevrolet, ripping through the bumpy downtown streets in a last-ditch attempt at the top spot.
With the checkered flag waving and all eyes on the defending series champion, Newgarden was able to snatch the pole from Dixon’s grasp by laying down a time of 59.495s.
It is the sixth pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career and the 4th pole for Newgarden in 2018.
With Newgarden and Dixon occupying the front row, the Team Penske duo of Simon Pagenaud (3rd) and Will Power (4th) will fill row two while Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi (5th) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (6th) make up row three to close out the Fast Six.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato was the first man on the outside looking in as he just missed the cut for the Fast Six. Despite being one of the strongest contenders through practice, Sato will roll off of the grid 7th on Sunday.
Sato’s teammate, Graham Rahal, will be a bit more disappointed with his result as he was eliminated in the first round of qualifying. Rahal will start 13th, alongside fellow Honda driver Marco Andretti.
There were a few surprises inside the top-12 that advanced from the first round of qualifications. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Jordan King rebounded from a few tough practice sessions to place his No. 21 Chevrolet P8.
After three practice sessions over the weekend, King’s best lap time was ranked 18th-fastest on the speed charts, so his 10-spot gain from practice to qualifying is a remarkable turnaround.
Another surprise came when Harding Racing’s Conor Daly advanced to round two of qualifying in his first race in an Indy car since the Indianapolis 500 in May. Daly, much like King, was buried towards the bottom of the practice timesheets before eventually qualifying a respectable 11th for Sunday afternoon’s race.
In all, three rookies qualified inside the top twelve for their first career start on the streets of Toronto. That includes King, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist (12th) and Canadian driver Robert Wickens.
Wickens will start alongside fellow countryman James Hinchcliffe in an all-Canadian row five. At the conclusion of his run, Wickens noted how he and his No. 6 Lucas Oil team has been a bit behind the 8-ball this weekend while trying to find pace.
The story was a bit different for Hinchcliffe, who spun with minutes remaining in round two of qualifying while trying to make the Fast Six. The Iowa race winner felt he has left a bit on the table, so look for Hinchcliffe to mount a charge through the field early on in tomorrow’s race.
A couple of disappointing runs further down in the order can be found in the way of Spencer Pigot (16th) and Sebastien Bourdais (17th). To date this weekend, Pigot had been the stronger Ed Carpenter Racing car while Jordan King learned the circuit.
By the end of qualifications, Pigot would miss the first round while King was just a couple spots from the Fast Six.
For Bourdais, the Honda driver is itching to re-capture some of his early-season success following a string of poor results. Since the Indianapolis 500, Bourdais has finished inside the top-10 just once.
Bourdais’ only podium this year came at the season opener at St. Petersburg, and the 2014 Toronto race winner had to be circling Sunday as an opportunity to reset his season. A 17th place starting spot won’t make matters any easier for the Frenchman.
With qualifying complete, one final warm-up on Sunday morning will be the final chance to teams to dial in their cars for the 85-lap afternoon race.
The Honda Indy Toronto goes green at 3:35 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Image courtesy of James Black/INDYCAR Media.