(MADISON, IL) With three races left in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, current points leader Josef Newgarden is certainly making life more difficult for those that trail.
The pilot of the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet claimed the pole for tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 that will have a 7:45 p.m. start at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
The fifteenth stop on the 17-race docket saw Newgarden, who won the series title in 2017, push his car to the top of the order in Friday’s qualifying round on the 1.25-mile oval with an average speed of 186.605 miles per hour.
Newgarden’s quartet of IndyCar wins this season has propelled him to preeminent spot of the NTT standings and by gaining his third pole position of the circuit Friday, he pushed his lead to 36 points over second place Alexander Rossi, 536-500.
“It helps to start up front,” Newgarden said afterwards Friday. “The PPG Chevrolet was so good right off the truck. Once we finished practice, we didn’t touch it before qualifying. Chevy has done an amazing job and gave us some great power to get the pole.”
He’ll be joined in the front row tonight by Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, who finished Friday’s qualifying round with an average speed of 185.927 miles per hour. The veteran driver for Dale Coyne Racing has a fighting chance to claim his first win of the season with a good performance. This would be a highlight as he only has one podium finish this year.
“A very strong run for the SealMaster Honda,” he said afterwards. “It was a really solid effort and the guys gave me a great car. During the run, there was a lot of sliding around in Turns 1 and 2. I gave it everything I had and I’m just really pleased with the run.”
Last year’s winner in Madison, Will Power (Team Penske), will start inside Row 2 and aims on keeping momentum on his side following last weekend’s victory in a rain-shortened race at Pocono. The duke pushed his personal streak of IndyCar seasons with a win to thirteen.
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) starts outside Row 2 while Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and rookie Santino Ferrucci (Dale Coyne Racing) occupies the third row.
Meanwhile in the NTT IndyCar Series points chase, Rossi (Andretti Autosport) starts inside Row 6 after a less than stellar qualifying run. He admittedly felt that narrowing the differential on Newgarden might be difficult tonight.
“Last year we had a car that was really quick – leading both practice sessions,” he said. “It is a little bit different experience this weekend. We have one more practice session to dial it in. The NAPA Andretti Honda just isn’t where it needs to be.”
Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) is third in the point standings and starts outside Row 4. The Kiwi looks for his third win of the year tonight and feels that the 310-mile feature is right in his team’s wheelhouse.
“I think our car will be good on the longer run for sure,” he said. “I think our car is really good overall and I’m excited for the race.”
Friday’s qualifying speeds on the lower end of the 22 entrants still surpassed 165 miles per hour, so one can expect the action tonight to still remain full throttle.
Today’s full slate of competitive action in Madison begins with the Indy Pro 2000 race at 1:45 pm. The 55-lap event with a 40 minute window finds Rasmus Linde, the current points leader, on the pole.
At 3:25 pm, the INDY Lights race holds a 75-lap feature in a 55-minute window. Current points leader Oliver Askew leads the talented field of eight potential IndyCar superstars.
At 4:35 pm, the K & N Series race holds their 120-lap stock car race in a 90-minute window.
Tonight’s command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is set for 7:40 pm and the green flag drops five minutes later. Coverage can be seen on NBC Sports.
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For more info on the NTT IndyCar Series, go to this link.
Arch City Media will be at Saturday’s event and will have a full recap Sunday morning.