Sunday, June 24, 2018

Morning Warm-Up: Road America 2018

Josef Newgarden looks to reignite championship fight at Road America
Josef Newgarden took his third pole position of the season and his second consecutive pole position, as the American was the fastest in the Fast Six session for the Kohler Grand Prix from Road America.  Newgarden took pole position with a lap at 103.2026 seconds, 0.0482 seconds faster than teammate Will Power. This is the second consecutive race Team Penske has swept the front row. This is Power's 20th consecutive race starting in the top ten. This is the fourth consecutive Road America race Power has started on the front row. The 46 laps he led from pole position on his way to victory in 2016 are the only laps he has led at the track. Newgarden has finished in the top ten in both his Road America starts. He led 13 laps in last year's race after starting fifth but he wounded up finishing second. Newgarden has finished on the podium in consecutive years at two tracks. He had three consecutive podium finishes at Iowa from 2014-16 and he has finished on the podium in four consecutive Barber races with three victories in the last four years. Team Penske has only won four times at Road America and four different drivers are responsible for the four victories. Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy and Power have all won at Road America for Team Penske.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will start third, his fourth consecutive top ten start. This is only the second time Hunter-Reay has started in the top five at Road America. He started second in the 2004 race and he finished fourth. Alexander Rossi makes it an all-Andretti row two. Rossi has made it out of the first round of qualifying in every road/street course race this season. This is Rossi's best career starting position at Road America. His prior best starting position was 15th. Rossi had the fastest lap in the qualifying session when he ran a 102.7998 in round two of qualifying. One year after running Friday practice sessions at Road America while on standby for Mikhail Aleshin's entrance to the United States, Robert Wickens will roll off from fifth position for today's race. This is Wickens' fourth consecutive top five starting position and he has the second best average starting position in IndyCar at 6.1 behind only Power. Sébastien Bourdais made the Fast Six for the third time this season and he will start sixth. In six Road America starts, Bourdais' average starting position at the track is fourth.

Takuma Sato missed out on the final round of qualifying but will start seventh, his third top ten starting position in the last four races. This is Sato's best starting position at Road America after his prior best was 15th in 2016. Scott Dixon will start eighth. Dixon could become the second driver to win in successive years at Road America. Jacques Villeneuve won at Road America in 1994 and 1995. Dixon has never won a race from eighth on the grid. Only once has Dixon finished on the podium when starting eighth. He started eighth and finished third at Milwaukee in 2001. It was Dixon's second career podium finish in his fifth career start. Graham Rahal and Spencer Pigot start on an all-American row ten. This is Rahal's third top ten starting position in the last four races but he has started outside the top fifteen in four races this season. This was the second time Pigot has made it through the first round of qualifying in his career. He started ninth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Pigot picked up his first career top ten finish in IndyCar at Road America in 2016 when he finished sixth.

Zach Veach will start 11th for the second time this season. He started 11th at Barber and finished 13th in that race. Since finishing fourth at Long Beach, Veach has been the worst Andretti Autosport finisher in six consecutive races. Ed Jones advanced to round two of qualifying for the second time this year and for the second time in 2018 Jones will start 12th. Jordan King makes his IndyCar debut from 13th position. This is King's first time not making the second round of qualifying while his Ed Carpenter Racing teammate did advance. Simon Pagenaud will start 14th. This is Pagenaud's first time not advancing from the first round of qualifying this season. Pagenaud has only made the Fast Six session once this season. He missed making the second round of qualifying by 0.0003 seconds. Marco Andretti will start 15th and James Hinchcliffe starts next to his former Andretti Autosport teammate in 16th. This year's race occurs 28 years to the day Michael Andretti won at Portland with Mario Andretti finishing second. This is the second consecutive race Hinchcliffe has set his worst starting position of the season.

Zachary Claman De Melo gets his best starting position since Barber in 17th. Claman De Melo won last year in Indy Lights at Road America. It is his only Indy Lights victory. Tony Kanaan is on the outside of row nine, matching his worst career starting position at this track. However, Kanaan finished fourth from 18th on the grid in 2002. Kanaan has never won a race when starting outside the top fifteen. The worst starting position he won from was 15th at Iowa on June 20, 2010. Charlie Kimball and Matheus Leist will start on row ten. This is the seventh race Kimball has started on row ten or worse. This is the fifth time Leist has started on row ten or worse. Kimball finished sixth in his only two starts at Road America. Leist also won in Indy Lights last year at Road America. Brazilians have won seven times at Road America. Only Americans have more Road America victories with eight. The United States, Brazil and Canada have each had four different drivers with at Road America.

Alfonso Celis, Jr. will make his IndyCar debut from 21st on the grid. The last time a Mexican driver won a IndyCar race was October 3, 2004 at Fontana when Adrian Fernández took the victory. Héctor Rebaque is the only Mexican driver to win at Road America in IndyCar. Rebaque won the inaugural IndyCar held at Road America in 1982. Max Chilton starts 22nd for his second consecutive race. This is the fourth time Chilton has started outside the top twenty in his career and this is his third time starting outside the top twenty this season. Gabby Chaves will start 23rd, his worst starting position of the season. This is Chaves' second time running at Road America in IndyCar. In 2016, he started and finished 19th driving for Dale Coyne Racing.

NBCSN's coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix from Road America begins at 12:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 55 laps.