Josef Newgarden won the pole for the Long Beach Grand Prix, but he will start in the middle of the pack. Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward will start on row two.
LONG BEACH (California) — After a sloppy qualifying session placed contenders Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward in the center of the pack, the IndyCar title battle tightened ahead of the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“Maybe the rules don’t apply in the season finale? When everything is on the line? It’s simply awful, “After failing to progress to the final round of qualifying, O’Ward became enraged.
After several drivers failed to brake during a local yellow and were punished, O’Ward felt he should have been in the Fast Six. O’Ward claimed that he should have been moved up to sixth place, and Arrow McLaren SP even suggested that teammate Felix Rosenqvist should have been punished by speeding.
Despite a long wait for IndyCar to examine the findings, the Fast Six stayed intact, with O’Ward starting eighth in Sunday’s championship-deciding race. He sits 35 points behind leader Palou in the standings and was enraged by IndyCar’s inactivity.
“We have concrete evidence that at least two other vehicles were not punished and continued to drive fast in the yellow light,” the 22-year-old Mexican claimed.
He stormed off pit road, cooled down by the time he got to the press conference, but became enraged again when the issue was brought up.
“Like you and everyone else, we’re still waiting for an answer,” O’Ward added. “However, I doubt I’ll receive a response.”
Palou was nabbed in the qualifying session by the same local yellow and will start 10th.
Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden took the pole position.
The American is a distant third in the rankings, but he is still mathematically in contention for his third championship. He thanked a fan who has been promoting Newgarden and Team Penske all weekend on the makeshift street circuit. However, he does not believe that fan excitement will be enough to win the championship.
“We’ve battled hard all year, but winning the title is very unlikely,” Newgarden said. “Winning the race is our objective.”
Palou will become the first Spaniard to win the IndyCar title with a trouble-free Sunday drive on the temporary street circuit. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, an 11th-place finish wins him his first major title as a professional racer.
After qualifying 10th, two places behind O’Ward, the 24-year-optimistic old’s attitude, enthusiasm, and cheerful demeanor remained unchanged. He and his Chip Ganassi Racing crew watched the last qualifying round from their pit box and then urged teammate Scott Dixon to win the race on Sunday after Dixon qualified second behind Newgarden.
Palou had never seen the 11-turn circuit in downtown Long Beach, which stretched for almost two miles. He touched the wall in qualifying and required numerous saves in Saturday morning practice, but he didn’t seem to mind his midpack starting position.
Palou remarked, “The good thing is we have a basis.” “We’re confident in our racing vehicle.”
In the Back, Herta
Colton Herta, the weekend’s most dominating driver, will start 14th after failing to progress beyond the first round of qualifying.
Herta was quickest in both practice sessions at Long Beach after winning last weekend at Laguna Seca. However, he brushed up against the wall on his qualifying try and was unable to advance to the next round.
As IndyCar proceeded through its first long score assessment of the session, Herta momentarily believed he would be moved through to the second round after getting out of his vehicle and removing his helmet. Race management was debating whether Romain Grosjean should be penalized for interfering with the race, which would have dropped him and put Herta in front.
Before IndyCar made the first of two no-calls, Herta even got back in his vehicle.
Herta remarked, “I just smacked the wall there.” “Unfortunately, it was my fault. This might be a fun race to watch. We’ve got two fresh sets of reds [tires], so charging to the front could be a good idea.”
Farewell to Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-12-year Reay’s stint with Andretti Autosport comes to a close on Sunday at Long Beach, where he won his first race for the company.
As the cornerstone of the Andretti company, the driver nicknamed as “Captain America” won both the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar title during his twelve years in the No. 28. However, DHL support has dwindled, and Hunter-Reay said in November that this would be his last season with the club.
The team confirmed on Saturday that Grosjean would drive the vehicle next season, despite the fact that a second Indianapolis 500 win could have changed their minds. Hunter-Reay had announced his departure two weeks before.
“I believe we’ve reached the end of our time,” Hunter-Reay remarked. “Every weekend, I’ve simply gone in with the intention of having a simple weekend. We experienced a fuelling problem last weekend. It’s either this or that. This year has been filled with a lot of them, so I’m ready to move on.”
Hunter-Reay hasn’t specified what he’ll do next year, although he has said that he “definitely” wants to compete again. He was in a good mood and enjoyed his time during the signing session, as supporters cheered him on and his three young kids sometimes signed autographs of their own.
His sons have always worn his gear, as well as the brilliant yellow of sponsor DHL, and spending time with his family at his favorite track was a memory he will cherish. Hunter-late Reay’s mother adored the Long Beach Grand Prix, and it was there that he met his future wife during a race weekend.
“I’ve been with this team for 12 years, I’ve been married longer than I’ve been with the same engineer, and I’ve got three kids, so figure it out,” Hunter-Reay added. “Everything develops in athletics, business, and other fields. It is always the case. Change is unavoidable, and it’s generally a positive thing. It’s certainly time to change things up, in my opinion.
“I’m simply beaming as I compete at one of my favorite IndyCar circuits. You have the option of going through it with a huge grin on your face or being enraged and constantly kicking the can. That’s always been my attitude: appreciate it and go on with a positive outlook. That is, without a doubt, what I am doing.”