By: Spencer Neff
March 24, 2019 | 9:26 AM
On Sunday, the Circuit of The Americas will host its long-awaited inaugural NTT IndyCar Series event, the IndyCar Classic. Following the March 10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, this will be the second race of a scheduled 17 events this year.
After dominating Friday’s practice sessions, Team Penske continued to stake their claim as top contenders on Saturday. Despite being the only Chevrolet-powered entry to make the Fast Six in qualifying, Will Power took pole for the second time in as many races and the 56th in his career.
Additionally, Power is eligible for a $100,000 bonus announced on Thursday by the track. This bonus would be awarded if Power could win the race from the pole position. In his career, Power has won from pole 16 times – happening most recently at the 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Joining Power on the front row will be Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. Before qualifying, Rossi topped the charts in final practice. Rossi is the fastest-qualifying Honda-powered car on the grid.
Saturday’s qualifying didn’t quite feature the same level of drama and intrigue as the season-opener in St. Petersburg. However, there were a few incidents that shook up the starting grid for today.
Similar to two weeks ago, multiple red flags affected the flow of things in qualifying. During the first group session in Round 1, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey went off course in Turn 19. SInce Harvey’s incident occurred seconds before the scheduled checkered flag, the session was brought to an abrupt end.
In the second group, A.J. Foyt Racing veteran Tony Kanaan stopped in Turn 19 as well. Like Harvey, Kanaan would prompt a premature end to the session because of the red flag. Both drivers lost their two fastest laps for causing the stoppages.
Two of the rookie drivers in the series have continued to impress this weekend.
After leading three of the four test sessions at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course in February, Harding Steinbrenner’s Colton Herta was second-fastest in Friday’s opening session. Despite losing an engine in that practice, Herta rebounded and will start fourth.
Following Herta on the grid in fifth will be Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist. After finishing fourth at St. Petersburg, the rookie again impressed when he recorded the weekend’s fastest lap in Round 2 of qualifying.
In addition to Herta, two other rookies recorded their best qualifying efforts: Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci (starting 11th) and Arrow SPM’s Marcus Ericsson (16th).
Conversely, two of the series’ most decorated drivers will be looking to shake off their early-season misfortunes.
Due to the red flags, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Sebastien Bourdais and Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud did not advance to Round 2 for the second straight race.
On Sunday, four-time ChampCar Champion Bourdais will line up 17th. Meanwhile, 2016 IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud rolls off 22nd.
Speaking of rookie drivers, Pato O’Ward will make his 2019 debut on Sunday. The 2018 Indy Lights champion will start the first of his 13 races with Carlin Racing from 8th.
Today’s event will begin with a half-hour pre-race show on NBCSN at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, leading into NBCSN’s race broadcast at 1:30 p.m.
Additionally, fans can catch all 60 laps of the action on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network. To listen to the radio network – and view timing and scoring – head over to RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Header image by Stephen King/INDYCAR.