ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden has a pole to go with the new garden that fans planted in his honor at Road America.
The defending IndyCar series champion led a Team Penske sweep up front for the 222-mile race Sunday. Newgarden turned a lap time in 1 minute, 43.20 seconds for his fifth career pole and second straight after taking pole position two weeks ago at Texas.
At Road America, Newgarden also gets a vegetable garden .
“Someone set up my own garden, too,” he said Saturday after qualifying. “It shows you the kind of you support you have around here.”
He edged teammate Will Power by 0.05 seconds.
“That was close. We were off the whole time. I gave it everything the last lap – a surprise front row,” Power said.
Andretti Autosport drivers locked down the second row for the road-course race Sunday, with Ryan Hunter-Reay starting third and Alexander Rossi taking fourth.
“Just came up a little short there. All of a sudden, Josef and Will popped out of nowhere,” Hunter-Reay said.
Rookie Robert Wickens will start fifth, with Sebastien Bourdais starting sixth.
Wickens and Newgarden recorded the top two laps over the three practice sessions at Road America.
Newgarden’s momentum carried over into qualifying. Maybe Road America will give him a spark after dropping to fifth in the points standings following a five-race stretch finishing no higher than eighth.
“We were on the pole last week in Texas too. Qualifying for us doesn’t really guarantee anything in this series,” Newgarden said.
“We’ve got speed,” he added. “We’ve just got to make sure we execute on race day.”
Points leader Scott Dixon will start eighth, his lowest starting position since qualifying ninth for the Indy 500 last month.
But Dixon, a four-time series champion, is a threat no matter where he’s stationed on the starting grid.
“I think even if Scott started 23rd he’d still be in the front at the end,” Rossi said.
WHO’S HOT: Hunter-Reay will have his best starting position of the year. He has moved up from ninth to fourth in the points race following four straight top-five finishes, including a win at Belle Isle.
WHO’S NOT: Simon Pagenaud was left out of the Penske party up front. He will start 14th after just missing the cut to advance out of the first round of qualifying.
PENSKE’S POLE: Newgarden won Team Penske’s third straight pole at Road America, following Helio Castroneves in 2016 and Will Power last year.
IRON MAN: Tony Kanaan qualified 18th in the 23-car field in what will be his 293rd consecutive series start, extending an IndyCar record. The race Sunday will come 17 years to the day that the streak began at Portland International Raceway in 2001.
“The car is understeering all weekend,” Kanaan said. “We tried something overnight that didn’t work, so it put us behind a session and we’re back to the car we had yesterday.”
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