DETROIT – For the second-straight day, Alexander Rossi was one-upped by his NTT IndyCar Series rival Josef Newgarden.
This time it happened in Sunday’s qualifying for race two of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race and for the second day in a row, water was involved.
What was unusual about Sunday’s moisture is the sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. However, water that had been trapped in the tire barriers in turn six began to leak across the track, causing qualifying to be red flagged for 46 minutes.
By then, track conditions had changed and were different than when Rossi set the fast time in the first session with a time of 1:15.1825 around the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course at Detroit’s Belle Isle.
The track conditions suited Newgarden’s Chevrolet, as he turned the fast time overall at 1:14.8607 to claim his first NTT P1 Award of the year and the seventh of his career. It was the 267th pole in Team Penske history.
“It was a good lap,” Newgarden said. “I got (the pole) on the first (lap). I could tell the temperatures were coming up quicker than yesterday; normally second lap (is quicker). I could see the grip was already there, so I had to go. The second lap was done; the tires were already burned off. I tried to maximize that first one. Pretty good lap. Must have gotten lucky. I guess it worked out.
“Team Chevy has done a great job, like I’ve said all weekend. Great to have Hitachi here this weekend. Team Penske overall, putting on this event and having all the people out. It’s good to have a solid weekend here.”
In a sense, Newgarden may have benefitted by the longer wait, even though the track temperature was lower than during Rossi’s run. The warmer track seems to work better with Newgarden’s setup on his Chevrolet.
“I guess it’s good to be lucky; better to be lucky than good,” Newgarden said. “These guys have done a great job; Team Chevy has really brought it this weekend. They’ve worked really hard and circled this place on the calendar. We had a good car here. All our boys, they’ve worked extremely hard at the shop. We knew we needed to be better on street courses, and you can see (the improvement). It’s fast, really fast, and we’ve executed well. We got the tires (up to temperature) when we need them to. I’m pleased as punch at the moment.
“We’ve just got to try to finish off the second race. I think it’s going to be physical today, really hard to get through it, so we’ve got to focus on (finishes) off the weekend.”
The next six cars were Hondas, including Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts ride. He was followed by Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach, Colton Herta, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon and rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
Rossi’s second-place starting position is his fifth top-five start in the last eight races. Veach’s third is the best start in his NTT IndyCar Series career.
“The pole here is in group two, so we knew it was going to happen, but we’re on the front row so that’s a positive,” Rossi said. “I think we had the advantage yesterday in the wet, just got unlucky with the yellows that fell. I think we have the car to beat again and we’ll try to get to the point early on and then bring it home from there.
“The strategy will be very different obviously today. You weren’t worried with tire life in the rain, just fuel. Today we have to see how the red (tires) and the black (tires) fair. There will be a huge tire wear factor today and we won’t really know until we get out there this afternoon and race.”
Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. EST.