Pato O’Ward’s trust in his car and in his ability helped him earn the NTT P1 Award for Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on Saturday at Belle Isle in Detroit.
O’Ward produced the best lap of the 12-driver Firestone Fast 12, one minute, 15.5776 seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet on the bumpy, challenging, 14-turn, 2.35-mile temporary street circuit. It was his second pole of the season, as he also earned the top spot at the season-opening race in mid-April at Barber Motorsports Park.
“You need to put so much faith into this place,” O’Ward said. “You have to put faith into the car that it’s going to stick, but when you nail a lap, you can tell you’ve nailed it.
“Even to compare to a St. Pete, the faster you go here and the more you attack, the more grip you have. But when you’re not attacking, you don’t feel the grip. It’s like, ‘Well, is it going to give it to me?’ So, you just kind of have to go for it.”
The 70-lap Race 1 of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekend doubleheader starts at 2:05 p.m. (ET) today, with live broadcasts from NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 2.
2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi will join O’Ward on the front row after tying his best qualifying position of the season. He qualified second at 1:15.6584 in the No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, his fourth straight front-row start at Belle Isle.
Series rookie Romain Grosjean leads an all-Dale Coyne Racing second row. Grosjean qualified third at 1:15.7433 in the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda. Teammate Ed Jones was fourth at 1:15.8119 in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda.
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five at 1:15.8697 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
2014 series champion Will Power, fastest Friday in practice, will start seventh after a best lap of 1:16.0877 in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet. Power brushed the wall and a tire barrier in separate incidents late on his final flying qualifying lap, which early time splits showed could have challenged for pole.
Championship leader Alex Palou faces a steep challenge this afternoon, as he will start last in the 25-car field after qualifying 21st in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda. Palou moves to the back of the field for the start because of a six-spot grid penalty incurred for an unauthorized engine change before the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Six-time and defending series champion Scott Dixon, Palou’s teammate and closest pursuer in the points, will start 11th after a best lap of 1:17.8680 in the Firestone Fast 12.
Rossi wasted no time stating his intent and showing his speed in the first qualifying group. He turned the quickest lap by more than three-quarters of a second, 1:15.8507. Grosjean was second quickest at 1:16.6715 in the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda.
Power, quickest in practice Friday, just barely made the Firestone Fast 12. He was sixth-quickest in the first group, the last driver to make the cut, with his final lap in the session in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Dixon also just squeezed into the Firestone Fast 12, as he was sixth in the second group in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda. Newgarden blitzed the second session with the top lap overall of the first two qualifying groups, 1:15.6606, in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.