Three of the NTT IndyCar Series rookies looked like veterans during qualifying for tomorrow’s IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas.

Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist advanced to the Firestone Fast Six while Patricio O’Ward just barely missed out on a pole shot in his first outing with Carlin Racing.

Herta had an eventful run to the Fast Six starting with a mechanical issue in yesterday’s opening practice after being second quick. That sent his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team into a scurry as they worked to replace the Honda engine in his No. 88 car.

He missed all of the 45-minute afternoon session but turned some laps in the warmup session.

Today he backed up his pace from the opening practice session and ultimately came within three-tenths of pole-sitter Will Power's time on his way to qualifying fourth.

The 18-year-old from Valencia, California admitted in hindsight that while he could have changed his tire strategy to better challenge for pole, starting up front in and of itself is rewarding given the comeback.

“I was looking at the time boards, and I thought maybe there was a chance on my first lap when we went P1,” he said. “Played a little bit of a strategy game, a lot of the guys like Ryan and Will, the two guys in front of me. They ran both their sets of red but they did one lap on each one.

“I think that might have been a better strategy for me, but we just went with the normal two laps on the set of tires. It still worked, and we were still quick.”

Rosenqvist showed pace the entire weekend and placed in the top five in every practice session. That pace continued in qualifying and advanced to Q2 with ease.

The driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Honda was blazingly fast in Q2 and turned the fastest lap so far this weekend at 1 minute 45.4542 seconds. The result was the Swedish rookie’s second foray into the Firestone Fast Six after making it on his debut at St. Petersburg.

His was the first taker in the Fast Six and clocked a lap of 1:46.5680s which ultimately ended up good for fifth on the grid.

While he fell short of getting the pole, the former DTM driver was upbeat about the day.

“Yeah, a little bit bittersweet for sure,” he said. “I think especially after the second shootout there. I think my mindset was definitely on the pole. But anyways, when you put on the second set or the used set of Reds, you never really know what you're going to get.

“It was a great day. We were up there again and we were in the Firestone Fast Six for the second time in two weekends, so cannot complain about that but as Scott said, I think we probably aim for a bit more today, but yeah, probably try to make it through Turn 1 there and should be good.”

Patricio O’Ward entered the weekend behind the 8-ball having missed the February preseason test at the 3.41-mile road course when his ride with Harding Steinbrenner Racing dissolved.

He is making his debut for Carlin Racing this weekend having signed a 13-race deal with the team. He showed almost the same performance in his series debut last September at Sonoma Raceway when he advanced to the Fast Six and qualified fifth.

The driver of the No. 31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet scarcely missed out on the Fast Six and will start eighth in tomorrow’s 60 lap event.

Despite missing the Fast Six, the 19-year-old Mexican was humbled by the result in his first showing at COTA and for the team.

"I think we should be really proud of ourselves with the result this weekend,” he said. “I'm a little bit behind the curve from everybody else not having those two testing days at spring training here in February, so it's been a process of trying to get comfortable with the car and getting to know the Carlin team.

“I think we were only eight-hundredths of a second off of moving into the Firestone Fast Six, so I'm a little bummed that I wasn't able to advance but then again I'm super happy to be starting eighth tomorrow especially with how little track time I've had.”

 

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