ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The future of the NTT IndyCar Series was on full display in Saturday’s Fast Six qualifications at Road America.
The battle for the pole for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America came down to a battle between 27-year-old Alexander Rossi and 19-year-old Colton Herta.
Rossi made two attempts during the final 8-minute round of qualifications while Herta chose to wait it out and make one fast attempt. By the time the session was completed, it was Herta who claimed the pole with a fast time of 1:42.9920 around the 4.014-mile, 14-turn Road America road course for a speed of 140.306 mph, becoming the youngest pole winner in Indy car history in the process.
“We’ve been so fast all weekend, and this is the cherry on top,” Herta said afterwards. “Alex has been a great teammate for me, and all of the Andretti drivers have been great to work with.”
It was the first pole for Harding Steinbrenner Racing and Herta, who is 19 years and 83 days old. Graham Rahal was previously the youngest pole winner in Indy car history. Rahal was 20 years and 90 days old in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2009, one year after he became then youngest race winner on the same track.
Rossi’s fastest lap was 1:43.1693 (140.065 mph) in the closing stages of the final round of qualifications. Rossi believes he drove as good a lap as the car could give him, but the competition level in the series is so high at the moment, it takes a perfect lap to win the pole in this format.
“It’s what we have week-in and week-out and requires perfection from the team and the driver,” Rossi said. “Colton did a good job, but it’s unfortunate I didn’t get that point for the pole. But we’re still ahead of Josef Newgarden and hopefully we keep it that way on Sunday.”
Rossi was referring to Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, the current leader in the NTT IndyCar Series standings by 25 points over Rossi.
Team Penske’s Will Power was third at 1:43.3749 (139.786 mph), followed by Newgarden at 1:43.6036 (139.478 mph). Rahal was fifth at 1:43.8076 (139.204 mph) followed by his teammate Takuma Sato’s 1:43.8790 (139.108 mph).
“As per usual, it was a pretty competitive session,” Rossi said. “I don’t think we went in expecting anything less.
“Ultimately, we came up a little bit short. I think we were 1/10th or 2/10ths off all session. We have to look into that, see how we can improve for tomorrow.
“I don’t know that it’s any different here than other places. There’s just probably more dramatic camera angles and shots here than others. You have to push every lap. It’s really no different today. I think we had a good lap in the first round, made some changes that maybe weren’t ultimately the best.
“Regardless, we’re on the front row. We’ll take it. We’re ahead of our championship competitors. Hopefully that’s a good omen for tomorrow.”
At 19, Herta is still just a kid, but drives with all of the racing savvy of a proven veteran. He became Indy car’s youngest winner when he was a week shy of his 19th birthday with the win in the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas on March 24.
Now, he is the youngest pole winner in Indy car history.
“I think we’ve been in the Fast Six quite a bit and we’ve tried these different tire strategies,” Herta explained. “Some were successful, some weren’t. This time we stayed solid on not going out and just doing two laps on our best set of Reds.
“I’ve had plenty of practice this year to do these one-lap, fast-lap type qualifying. I don’t think it was a lack of experience. I’ve had plenty of experience from this year already.
“We had a clear plan on what we were going to do. I’m glad we stuck to it because it was the right one.”
For complete qualifying results, advance to the next page.