Last week Roger Penske's team learned a lot during their test at Portland. They were able to apply that knowledge this weekend, which has put the rest of the paddock on notice. McLaughlin earned pole position and Josef Newgarden was just behind him, with points leader Will Power in 3rd. The three drivers have been at the top of every practice and qualifying session this weekend.

"Credit to everyone at Team Penske," McLaughlin said. "We weren’t great here last year but we’ve come back here with three hotrods. We’re all pushing each other – Will, Josef and myself. To get pole is obviously a great thing. The Freightliner Chevy feels good. The Chevy power is great. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow."

The biggest surprise today was Christian Lundgaard leading the charge for Honda. The RLL Racing driver qualified 4th, once again leading the way for the three-car team. This was his first visit to Portland, and the rookie has really been performing well over the last few races. Following his runner-up result on the IMS road course, he finished 8th after qualifying 3rd at Nashville.

Reigning series champion and defending Portland race winner Alex Palou qualified 5th today, leading the way for Chip Ganassi Racing, as his three teammates struggled around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile natural road course. His future teammate (possibly) Pato O'Ward was just behind him in 6th in the final round of qualifying.

Felix Rosenqvist just missed out on advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0094 seconds. Still, the Arrow McLaren SP driver will have a solid starting position, as he will actually start alongside his teammate O’Ward on Row 3 as Newgarden (8th) will be serving a six-place grid penalty for an engine change.

2022 Grand Prix of Portland - Qualifying Results
Pos Driver Team Engine
1Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevrolet
2Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevrolet
3Will PowerTeam PenskeChevrolet
4Christian LundgaardRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
5Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda
6Pato O'WardArrow McLaren SPChevrolet
7Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevrolet
8Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda
9Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda
10David MalukasDale Coyne w/ HMD MotosportsHonda
11Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
12Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet
13Kyle KirkwoodAJ Foyt RacingChevrolet
14Callum IlottJuncos Hollinger RacingChevrolet
15Romain GrosjeanAndretti AutosportHonda
16Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
17Jack HarveyRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda
18Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
19Simon PagenaudMeyer Shank RacingHonda
20Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet
21Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda
22Takuma SatoDale Coyne w/ Rick Ware RacingHonda
23Jimmie JohnsonChip Ganassi RacingHonda
24Devlin DeFrancescoAndretti AutosportHonda
25Dalton KellettAJ Foyt RacingChevrolet

Colton Herta starts 7th tomorrow, but it could have been much worse. In the opening round, Herta clipped the armco on the inside of Turn 1, bending the toe link on his No. 26 Honda. The Andretti team made quick repairs and were able to get him back on track for one timed lap on red tires. Herta delivered with a lap fast enough to advance to the next round.

"It was the entire crew that helped us get back out," Herta said. "Breaking a toe link in the first segment could have ruined our session. They fixed it and we had enough time to get a lap that was good enough to transfer. The No. 26 Gainbridge Honda is solid, and the crew did a great job. I am happy how everything went today."

Alexander Rossi will start just behind his teammate in 9th, in what will be his second-to-last race in the No. 27 machine. David Malukas rounded out the top-ten in qualifying. The rookie is battling Lundgaard for the Rookie of the Year this season, in what will likely come down to the final race next weekend.

Two of the title contenders from the Ganassi stable will have an uphill battle on Sunday. The PNC Bank Hondas of Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson were both eliminated in the first round of qualifying. They will start 16th and 18th tomorrow.

Dixon and Ericsson had opposite results in the Indy 500 this year, but were in the same boat today. Both are aiming for a title, but Ericsson seems already content with his season. "I won the 500 and I’ve been running at the front all year. I feel like whatever happens in these two races, it’s a win for me. Of course I very badly want that championship, and I’m going to do everything to make that happen. My overall feeling is just excitement. I’m looking forward to going for it."

There are seven drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship heading into the race tomorrow. Realistically, there are four drivers vying for the title. Power holds a 3-point lead over his teammate Newgarden, with Ganassi drivers Dixon (-14) and Ericsson (-17) also in the fight. Palou, McLaughlin, and O'Ward would need some sort of miracle to claim the Astor Cup next weekend.

This is the fourth time in his career that Power has led the championship with two races remaining. He was only able to seal the deal on one occasion, but will aim to change that next weekend at Laguna Seca. It will take a strong performance tomorrow to help make that happen. The 2014 champion will tie Michael Andretti for 4th on the all-time wins list with his 42nd career victory.

The three points separating Power and Newgarden is the closest margin with two races remaining since the 2008 season. The 43 points separating the top five drivers in the standings is the tightest title chase since 2003, when 41 points separated the top five drivers.

Dixon had a wild afternoon here last year, as he was caught up in the Turn 1 mayhem at the start of the race. As he and two other Ganassi drivers battle for the championship, Dixon knows they need to be smart. "Everybody here is trying to win, yet the prerace meetings are the same. That’s what I’ve always loved about this team. Obviously, rule number one is don’t take your teammate out. Everybody wants to win, but there’s some respect required when racing your teammates."

Newgarden agreed, but says things could be different in the Penske camp in the closing laps. "The smart thing is to not be at each other’s throats the entire race. But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go, and Roger understands that. He just wants us to do it in the best way possible. Race hard, but race fair and don’t take each other out. Things sometimes happen but all you can do is try to make it as fair as possible."

These two organizations each have two drivers with a realistic shot at the title, and another driver that could win it if they receive some help. With three drivers in each camp trying to claim the top spot, it can make things difficult in terms of how things play out on track.

Palou is one of the drivers that will need a bit of help in these last two races. Even with his odd contract situation, he is still 100 percent focused on the ultimate goal. "There is a lot going on, but at the end of the day, Chip would be super happy if we win the championship. He wants one of his cars to win the championship. We cannot all three win, but he wants one car to win. I don’t think I’m getting less stuff or not so much attention than others. I think we have a fair shot for sure."

The grid penalty for Newgarden would seem concerning, but the two-time champion doesn't appear to be too worried. "I wouldn’t say it’s ideal, but I don’t know that it is make-or-break. Hopefully it’s not a huge negative and I don’t think it will be." Newgarden started 13th and 18th in his last two starts here, but finished in 5th position in each race.

Today was another difficult afternoon for Romain Grosjean and the No. 28 team. The former Formula One driver failed to advance out of the first round in qualifying today and will start 15th tomorrow. Grosjean finished 22nd here last year, and has had a very disappointing first season with Andretti Autosport.

Meyer Shank Racing has also had a trying time in Portland. Helio Castroneves has led just one lap this season, and spun multiple times in practice this weekend. Simon Pagenaud has not led a lap all season, and the two drivers qualified 19th and 21st today.

There is one difference with the track this year. Due to a high frequency of crashes in Turn 1, the series added a chicane of barriers near the "triangle" area in an effort to slow down the cars enough so that when they return to the track, they have not gained any positions. IndyCar is evaluating the changes and will send a memo to teams to confirm the procedure for tomorrow's race.

There is one final 30-minute practice session this evening for teams and drivers to get their race day setup dialed in. The grid is set for tomorrow’s penultimate race of the season. Four drivers enter the race with championship aspirations. How many will still have a realistic shot at the title when the checkered flag waves? Coverage for the Grand Prix of Portland begins at 3 PM ET on NBC.