Graham Rahal earned his first NTT P1 Award in six years, powering to the pole Friday for the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in a 1-2 tour de force for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Rahal turned the top lap of 1 minute, 10.1132 seconds in the No. 15 Code 3 Associates Honda during the Firestone Fast Six. It was his fourth career INDYCAR SERIES pole and first since June 2017 at Belle Isle in Detroit.
The site of Rahal’s long-awaited pole also was significant due to the contrast of emotions from when he last competed at the Racing Capital of the World, in May. Rahal celebrated with his wife, Courtney, and their two young daughters on pit lane today, a welcome change from their heartbreaking despair when Rahal was bumped from the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge during qualifying.
“It means a lot,” Rahal said. “Everybody has seen it: We’ve had to work ridiculously hard to get back. This isn’t a win, but it feels like it for us. It’s just nice to feel competitive; it’s nice to be able to push and get something out of the car. You ask for it, you demand it, and it’s there. It feels really sweet.”
Rahal’s teammate Christian Lundgaard qualified second at 1:10.2286 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda as the team owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, late night TV icon David Letterman and business magnate Mike Lanigan took the top two spots in qualifying for an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race for the first time since April 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park, when Takuma Sato won the pole and Rahal started second.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow,” Toronto race winner Lundgaard said. “The team is strong. I certainly think we can do something great tomorrow. We’ve got two opportunities on splitting strategy and seeing what works best. I’m definitely hungry for another win, but at this point, I’m really happy for Graham to get his pole.”
Live coverage of the 85-lap race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile starts at 2 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Three teams – RLL, Arrow McLaren and Andretti Autosport – comprised the competitors in an ultra-competitive Firestone Fast Six session. Just .2889 of a second separated the six drivers, the third-tightest margin in the format’s history.
2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi qualified third in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet at 1:10.2932, tying his season best set on the oval at Texas. Teammate Pato O’Ward was fourth at 1:10.3453 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Devlin DeFrancesco was another one of the stars of the three rounds of qualifying. He earned a career-best starting spot of fifth at 1:10.3938 in the No. 29 TRUBAR/Jones Soda Honda fielded by Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport after driving into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his two-year NTT INDYCAR SERIES career.
Romain Grosjean rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:10.4021 in the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.
Narrow time margins were a theme of the three-round session, as rookie Marcus Armstrong qualified seventh at 1:10.2106 in the No. 11 IU Simon Cancer Center Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. He missed a spot in the Firestone Fast Six by .0008 of a second, the second-closest miss in this qualifying format’s history.
Jack Harvey completed a magical day for RLL, qualifying eighth at 1:10.2228 in the team’s No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda.
Championship leader Alex Palou qualified ninth at 1:10.2974 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s his second-lowest qualifying performance on a road or street course this season, with only 15th at Toronto lower. But any sting for Palou may be eased because his closest rival in the title hunt, Josef Newgarden, qualified a season-low 19th at 1:10.6150 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
Palou leads Newgarden by 84 points – a gap of 1.5 races – with four races remaining.
“Confident for tomorrow, but obviously a bit bummed not being in the Fast Six,” Palou said. “We’re starting P9 tomorrow, right? So, it’s not a bad starting position. We can do a lot from there, especially being such a long race with the strategy.”
Newgarden, who has won four races this season – all on ovals, wasn’t the only star to be eliminated in a wildly unpredictable first round of qualifying. He was joined by Long Beach and Nashville race winner Kyle Kirkwood (starting 15th), six-time series champion Scott Dixon (16th), reigning series champion Will Power (17th) and St. Petersburg winner Marcus Ericsson (18th).
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