By: Spencer Neff
August 23, 2019 | 6:30 PM
For Josef Newgarden, keeping his points lead is the main goal for the final three races. In qualifying for Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500, he did just that.
With a two-lap average of 186.508 mph around the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Newgarden picked up the coveted bonus point and will start on the pole.
This is Newgarden’s eighth career pole, second on an oval and second of the season (Belle Isle Race 2). For Team Penske, it is their fourth pole at this track.
In two prior starts at this track, Newgarden’s other front row start came in 2017. During that race, he led 170 laps and won. Now holding a 36-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, Newgarden will look for the same performance tomorrow night in his Dallara-Chevrolet.
Starting on the front row beside Newgarden will be Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Sebastien Bourdais. In his first front row qualifying performance since winning the pole at ISM Raceway in April of last year, he will start first among the Honda-powered entries.
Lining up on Row 2 will be Newgarden’s teammates, Will Power and Josef Newgarden.On Row 3, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato will start alongside Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci. By qualifying a career-best sixth, Ferrucci was quickest among the four rookies in the field.
During the session, drivers navigated a difficult race track on their two-lap runs. Between Newgarden and 22nd place-starter Marco Andretti, the gap was 1.126 mph. 17 drivers eclipsed the 180 mph mark, with the top five starters averaging above 185 mph.
With tomorrow night’s race occurring under different conditions than the first two sessions, getting a handle on the track will be paramount.
Turn 1 causing trouble
The unique layout of Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway makes it one of the more challenging tracks for drivers. In today’s qualifying, that continued to be the case.
Prior to the session, there was oil from a prior racing series on track. After the cleanup, the remaining oil-dry proved to be an extra obstacle for the drivers to navigate.
As the first car out on track, this was especially true for Conor Daly. Upon the end of his two-lap run, the Carlin Racing driver was vocal in his displeasure about the conditions. Last month at Iowa Speedways, Daly encountered a similar issue during his run.
With several racing series on track this weekend, this may continue to play out during tonight’s final practice and tomorrow’s race.
Later at 8:15 this evening, final practice will be held. As teams look to dial in race setups, 60 minutes will be allotted to them. For streaming, head to IndyCar Pass on NBC Sports Gold. As always, timing and scoring will be available at racecontrol.indycar.com.
For Saturday night’s race, NBCSN again has television coverage at 7:00 pm local time. At 7:40, the command to start engines will be given, with an expected green flag time of 7:45 pm for the 248-lap event.
Stay with Open-Wheels.com and our social media platforms for all the latest on the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
Header Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR