Qualifying at Road America is always an important part of the race weekend. Although only two pole sitters have won this race since 2016, 25 of the 32 races here have been won by a driver starting inside the top-five. Andretti Autosport has been one of the fastest teams in Elkhart Lake this weekend, but they have only won here one time.
Alexander Rossi delivered that lone victory, and seems to finally be returning to form. After another rough start to the season, the talented driver finally got back on track at Indianapolis, with another top-five finish. He followed that up with a runner-up finish last weekend in Detroit, and today captured his first pole since the 2019 season.
Speaking of 2019, that is the last time Rossi went to victory lane, and it happened right here at Road America. This is the 7th career pole for Rossi, who earned another championship point for his efforts. In the six previous races where he started from pole, he ended up winning four of them, and finished 2nd in another.
"I love this place," Rossi said. "I think it’s one of the top five road courses in the world in my book. It’s got everything. It’s just a joy to drive around here. Obviously the car rolled off really strong, which is positive on these weekends where it’s so close you’ve got to start from a good point."
“It was an amazing job all weekend by the NAPA Auto Parts/AutoNation Andretti-Honda guys. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. It’s amazing, it’s cool, we’ll enjoy it, but we’ve got a job to do tomorrow.”
The stars are beginning to align for the driver of the No. 27 Honda, who at the beginning of the month announced that he will be joining Arrow McLaren SP next season.
There have now been eight different pole sitters in the eight events this season.
Josef Newgarden narrowly missed his fourth Road America pole but will start alongside Rossi on the front row. The Team Penske ace has led the most laps (123) here among active drivers and seeks his second Road America win tomorrow. His last three finishes here are 14th, 9th, and 21st last year after a mechanical issue took away his victory in the closing laps of the race.
"That’s an impressive pole, so hats off to them," Newgarden said. "I felt like I did a good lap, it wasn’t perfect, maybe there was another tenth or two in there if I could have just put it together a little better and probably prepped the first lap. I went for it on my first lap because I didn’t know what the rain was going to do. Ultimately I’d have handled that differently. The PPG car was fast, just wish we had pole."
Row 2 features the reigning series champion and Indy 500 winner in Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson. The Ganassi duo have been quick all weekend but will have two young talents right behind them at the start of the race.
Colton Herta and Pato O'Ward will start from Row 3 and both are hungry for a win here. O'Ward, who led the morning practice session, started on pole in the second race in 2020 and finished runner-up. Herta also has a runner-up finish here last year and has also finished 8th, 5th, and 5th but still has never led a lap at Elkhart Lake.
Just missing out on the Firestone Fast Six was Romain Grosjean, who only got one lap in the second round after his car wouldn't get into gear. He lines up 7th tomorrow and has a real shot to win at this track that he absolutely loves. Former Road America winner Felix Rosenqvist starts 8th, with Scott McLaughlin and Scott Dixon completing the top ten starters. Simon Pagenaud and Callum Ilott start from Row 6 tomorrow.
Ilott is returning to the cockpit of his No. 77 Juncos Racing Chevrolet after missing the last race at Belle Isle with an injured hand suffered in his crash in the Indy 500. He was sensational in the first round, but found trouble in Round 2 when he got into the wet grass, causing him to slide into the outside tire barrier.
The biggest surprise from today's qualifying session was the absence of championship points leader Will Power. The Penske driver has finished inside the top four in every race this season outside of the 500 but failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying and will start 15th tomorrow. Power has finished on the podium in three of the last four races here but hasn't won since 2016.
Power will have some work to do if he wants to earn back-to-back victories after his win last weekend at Belle Isle. In fact, he will have to make some history in order to do that. In the 32 races at Road America, only once has it been won by a driver starting outside of the top ten. That was Alex Tagliani, who won after starting 13th back in 2004.
Helio Castroneves will start alongside his former teammate Power while the two Ed Carpenter Racing drivers will start behind them in Row 9. It was another qualifying session struggle for RLL Racing as they all missed the top 12 once again. Christian Lundgaard starts 13th while Jack Harvey (20th) and Graham Rahal (22nd) will start from the rear of the field.
Newgarden has another opportunity tomorrow to win a cool $1 million bonus. The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge will reward the first driver to win on all three types of circuits. The Team Penske ace has already won on an oval at Texas, and street circuit at Long Beach. All that remains is a road course victory, which could come tomorrow.
The last four races at Road America have been won by Honda-powered cars. Ganassi has won the last three, with a different driver each time. In each of the last five years, a driver finishing on the Road America podium has gone on to win the series championship that same year.
There is one final 30-minute practice session this evening at 5:20 ET that will allow teams and drivers to dial in their race setup for tomorrow. Coverage for Sunday's Sonsio Grand Prix begins at 12:30 ET on NBC.