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Qualifying report

Rosenqvist, Palou claim heat poles for IndyCar $1m challenge race

Felix Rosenqvist and Alex Palou earned poles for their respective IndyCar heat races in Sunday’s $1m challenge at The Thermal Club.

Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The #60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda of Rosenqvist vaulted to over his rivals in 1m38.5831s around the 3.067-mile, 17-turn road course to seize control of the opening group.

Palou, the reigning and two-time IndyCar Series champion, continued to further establish his strong pace in the weekend’s testing after pushing a lap of 1m38.5675s to lead the second group.

Group 1

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon set the early mark of the eight-minute qualifying bout, nailing a lap of 1m39.7074s.

However, Dixon’s time at the top was brief as Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), who led the final test session earlier in the day, jumped to the lead with less than two minutes remaining.

Moments later, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin relegated both and assumed the top spot with a minute left. A mere few second later, Rosenqvist delivered his pole-winning run.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay slotted third, pushing Lundgaard to fourth. 

Rosenqvist ended up claiming the pole by only 0.0237s over McLaughlin and 0.0452s ahead of VeeKay.

Heat 1 pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Heat 1 pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The Team Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Will Power came across fifth and sixth, respectively, which pushed the Juncos Hollinger Racing tandem of Romain Grosjean and Agustin Canapino to seventh and eighth.

The rotation among the group left Dixon, the six-time IndyCar Series champion, falling to ninth. AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci was tenth.

Colton Herta (Andretti Global) was left abandoning an earlier run after dirt was thrown on the track from another competitor and never recovered to challenge a lap to make the top six, ending up 11th.

Dale Coyne Racing rookie Nolan Siegel, who competes full-time in Indy NXT, stood as high as second in the group in the early going before fading to 12th.

Kyle Kirkwood encountered similar issues as Herta, his Andretti team-mate, with having to abort an early effort and not able to attack a quick lap, locking in 13th.

Sting Ray Robb (AJ Foyt Racing) wrapped up the group in 14th.

Group 2

The furious start to the second group saw Arrow McLaren set the early mark with Pato O’Ward hitting a 1m39.4293s flyer with three minutes remaining, but then knocked down a minute later by temporary team-mate Callum Ilott’s lap of 1m39.2527.

Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson was pressing for a quick lap until he appeared to hit a bump in Turn 8, which led to the rear of his #28 Honda to kick out and back into the tyre barrier. The incident brought out the red flag with one 1m19s remaining.

When the session resumed, Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) established themselves as the trio of Palou, Marcus Armstrong and rookie Linus Lundqvist vaulted to the top three spots.

Heat 2 pole sitter Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Heat 2 pole sitter Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Lundqvist held that spot until Graham Rahal’s #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda pulled off a late surge to claim third.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Tom Blomqvist was able to slot fifth, behind Lundqvist. Pietro Fittipaldi (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) stormed to sixth.

Despite early pace by Arrow McLaren, all faded from seventh through ninth led by Alexander Rossi, then Ilott and followed by O’Ward.

Another CGR rookie, Kyffin Simpson, was able to secure 10thChristian Rasmussen (Ed Carpenter Racing), rookie Colin Braun (Dale Coyne Racing), and Ericsson rounded out the rest of the group in 11th, 12th  and 13th.

But it all counts for Sunday's prize-giving race, a non-points paying event, that marks the first time since Surfers Paradise 2008 that an IndyCar a race does not count toward the championship.

Each qualifying has set the grid for the heat races, which haven’t been seen in IndyCar since 2013 at Iowa, and will determine the 12-car field for the event’s ultimate prize race.

The top six will advance from each heat, which will consist of 10 laps or be timed at 20 minutes.

Pole position and odd number starting positions for the main event will be determined by the heat race winner, with the fastest time from qualifications occupying the pole and the remainder of that heat race lined up in positions 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

A total of 20 laps will be divided into two 10-lap sprint segments, with a 10-minute break at the halfway mark during which fuel can be added, while adjustments can be made to the tyre pressure, as well as front and rear wings.

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