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Herta denies resurgent Rahal Mid-Ohio IndyCar pole

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta bagged a second consecutive IndyCar pole positon, denying Graham Rahal a first pole since 2017, at Mid-Ohio.

Rahal’s front-row start marks a resurgent performance from a driver who just over a month ago was bumped out of the Indianapolis 500 and only made it into the race as an injury substitute.

It was a fascinating Honda-only Fast Six to decide the pole where Ganassi and Andretti split strategy and had one car each on the hard and soft tyre, while Rahal Letterman Lanigan committed to the soft tyre for both its drivers.

Herta and Ganassi’s championship leader Alex Palou dummied the field and did an install lap at the start of the Fast Six instead of a banker lap, immediately pitting to change tyres together and coming out with clean air to set their times on hard tyres.

Rahal and his RLL team-mate Christian Lundgaard elected to go for pole on the softs and Rahal had the top spot in the closing stages until Herta, on the harder tyre, left it until the last possible lap to snatch pole by 0.0432s.

The tyre call was a gutsy one for Herta, who has had a switch of strategist for this race with Andretti chief operating officer Rob Edwards immediately helping to deliver for Herta. The driver had also had a tyre vibration and a downshift issue in the early part of qualifying.

Rahal hadn’t made a Fast Six on a road course since Portland in 2021 and was the only driver in his RLL stable not to make a Fast Six this year up until this point, but now starts on the front row for the first time in four years.

It’s a huge result for the struggling team that seems to have turned a corner at the home of the Rahal family in Ohio.

Kyle Kirkwood split strategy with team-mate Herta and went for the softs to start third, beating Palou, who followed Herta’s strategy but his tyre didn’t come in for that final lap.

Kirkwood added that he still felt Herta made the wrong tyre call and just “drove super well” but is happy with starting third because he’s on the inside.

Palou maintains his run of qualifying in the top seven of all eight races this year with an average start of 3.56. Already holding a 74-point championship lead, he’s positioned ahead of all of his major championship rivals once again.

Lundgaard was relegated to fifth by late improvements, with Scott Dixon returning to his brilliant 2023 qualifying form after a blip at Road America by taking sixth.

Penske’s hunt for a pole in 2023 continues. The series’ best ever qualifier in terms of number of poles, Will Power, was the last driver not to make it into the Fast Six despite topping morning practice by a comfortable margin.

“It’s everything I had,” said a baffled Power about where the deficit lay, although all six cars ahead were Honda powered and he admitted that could provide one answer.

Team-mate Scott McLaughlin followed Power, with Swedes Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist rounding out the top 10.

Jack Harvey in the third RLL car and David Malukas completed the top 12. Malukas admitted earlier in the weekend he’s set to leave Dale Coyne Racing at the end of the year for what he hopes is a bigger team.

The first group of Q1 threw up plenty of surprises with Alexander Rossi the first driver to miss out. He starts 13th. Indy 500 winner and third-place in the championship Josef Newgarden also failed to advance and starts 15th.

They sandwiched Romain Grosjean who admitted his Andretti Autosport team got his tyre pressures wrong and felt a Fast Six appearance wouldn’t have been out of the question otherwise.

Pato O’Ward was an even bigger loser than Rossi and Newgarden in the first group of qualifying. He was nearly four-tenths faster than the rest in Friday practice but while already fastest in the first session in qualifying he spun at the Horseshoe and stalled, bringing out a red flag.

IndyCar’s rules dictate if you cause a red flag you aren’t allowed to advance to the next part of qualifying, so the driver who previously hasn’t qualified outside of the top 10 this year will start 25th for Arrow McLaren.

Simon Pagenaud missed out on qualifying completely as he was not cleared by IndyCar after a high-speed vaulting crash where he somersaulted through the air in practice after losing the ability to brake.

His Meyer Shank Racing team is based in Ohio, so it was able to take the car back to its factory to make overnight repairs in hope that Pagenaud will be cleared to race. He walked away from the crash but still has to show IndyCar he is fit to compete on Sunday.

If Pagenaud is not fit to race on Sunday, Conor Daly – who left Ed Carpenter Racing before the last race – will race in his place.

Daly didn’t have his equipment with him at Mid-Ohio so Daly’s mum has driven his helmet and seat from his native Indianapolis.

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Team Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 1m05.86s 1m05.858s 1m06.31s
2 Graham Rahal Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.031s 1m05.934s 1m06.353s
3 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 1m05.724s 1m05.949s 1m06.369s
4 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.036s 1m05.985s 1m06.417s
5 Christian Lundgaard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m05.893s 1m05.888s 1m06.628s
6 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m05.776s 1m05.979s 1m06.928s
7 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m05.984s 1m06.112s
8 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.203s 1m06.193s
9 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m05.925s 1m06.229s
10 Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.189s 1m06.246s
11 Jack Harvey Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.29s 1m06.731s
12 David Malukas Dale Coyne Racing/HMD Motorsports Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.562s 1m06.76s
13 Alexander Rossi Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.601s
14 Romain Grosjean Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.187s
15 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.631s
16 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.289s
17 Ryan Hunter-Reay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m07.01s
18 Marcus Armstrong Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.292s
19 Hélio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m07.05s
20 Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m06.349s
21 Agustín Canapino Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m07.082s
22 Sting Ray Robb Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.516s
23 Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m07.396s
24 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 1m06.583s
25 Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m11.366s
26 Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1m07.281s
27 Simon Pagenaud Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda
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