Herta breaks pole stalemate with flamboyant final lap in Toronto

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Colton Herta became the first two-time pole winner this season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, winning the NTT P1 award for the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday.

Herta’s best time was 59.2698 seconds on his final flying lap in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, as he added that pole to his No. 1 spot at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. The first nine races of this season featured a different pole winner, and Herta was happy to spoil a chance for the INDYCAR SERIES to tie a record of 10 different pole winners to start a season set in 1952.

SEE: Qualifying Results | Qualifying Highlights

“It was an intense session,” Herta said. “We only really found that time at the very end. I was really happy with this round. It all kind of came together. The car was running wonderfully. You don’t see this usually, guys go faster on used reds (alternative Firestone tires) instead of new ones. Something to think about for tomorrow, but I’m happy with my Gainbridge Honda.

The 85-lap race is scheduled for Sunday. Exclusive, live coverage of the race begins at 3 p.m. ET on Peacock Premium — with limited commercial interruptions — and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Both outlets will also be covering the morning warm-up session at 10:55 a.m. live.

Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon will join Herta – who also led morning practice – in the front row after a best qualifying lap of 59.3592 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It was the best non-oval qualifying performance this season for Indianapolis 500 put on by pole winner Gainbridge Dixon, whose previous best road/street qualifying effort was fifth in the last race, The Honda Indy 200 on July 3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, who leads the series this season with three wins, qualified third at 59.5257 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. He will share Row 2 with Alexander Rossi, who qualified fourth at 59.5544 in the #27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

David Malukas was the best-qualified rookie with a career-best starting spot of fifth after a lap of 59.6140 in the #18 Honda HMD. Scott McLaughlin completed the Firestone Fast Six at 59.9558 in Team XPEL Penske Chevrolet No. 3.

Qualifying for the NTT P1 award provided a mixed bag of results for Astor Challenge Cup contenders as series champions on the temporary 11-turn, 1.786-mile circuit on the streets of Exhibition Place in the biggest city from Canada.

The 2021 points and Indianapolis 500 leader fielded by Gainbridge winner Marcus Ericsson qualified ninth in the #8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Ericsson’s closest pursuer, 2014 series champion Will Power, endured a third straight ordeal with a frustrating qualifying result. He will start 16th in the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet after his final hot lap of the first qualifying session was cut short when Kyle Kirkwood crashed his #14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet into Turn 8, triggering a red flag and putting end of the group session.

Power has qualified 15th or lower in the last three road races on the calendar, but rallied to finish first and third in two of them, at Belle Isle and Mid-Ohio, respectively.

“I should know you have to stay in the top six every time because it can happen,” Power said of losing his round to the Kirkwood incident. “I had a really fast car again. It’s crazy. It’s been three races in a row that we’ve been P2 in practice before qualifying and then between 15th and 19th. Frustrating, man. Frustrating. I got to turn 6 and was up four tenths, that would have allowed us through.

Newgarden, third in points, is in good shape to possibly gain ground on Ericsson and Power with the third place start on Sunday.

But the next two drivers in the standings, Alex Palou, fourth, and Pato O’Ward, fifth, have a lot of work to do.

Defending series champion Palou slowed on track and stopped in his qualifying group in the first session and will start 22nd in the 25-car field in the #10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. O’Ward cut the wall with his No. 5 Arrow Chevrolet McLaren SP during his first group, did not advance and will start 15th.

There was a silver lining for the cheering crowd of Canadian fans, returning en masse to sunny skies after this event was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto-area native and series rookie Devlin DeFrancesco qualified with a career-best 12th-place finish in the No. 29 Honda PowerTap.

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