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O’Ward Pole keeps INDYCAR streak alive

O'Ward Pole keeps INDYCAR streak alive

For the ninth time in nine races to start the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, another driver will lead the field to green on Sunday.

This time it’s Pato O’Ward, who won the NTT P1 Award for pole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday. His best lap of 1 minute 6.7054 seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet concluded an eventful qualifying session on the picturesque permanent course.

O’Ward’s fast lap on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course marked his fifth career pole in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. In addition, by becoming the ninth different pole winner to start the season, he equaled a number from 1961, when there were also nine different pole winners to start the year. The record for most pole winners to start the season is 10, set in 1952.

CLICK: Qualifying Speeds

O’Ward will be the first to see the green flag for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 in Mid-Ohio, presented by the all-new 2023 Civic Type R (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network).

“It was a good session for us,” said O’Ward. “In the first two sections I couldn’t get the lap together, but the third time I did. The car has been great. We didn’t roll off the truck as best we could, but we made some changes overnight and we got her in the window.”

Next to O’Ward is Scott McLaughlin, who qualified second in the No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:06.8382 for his best starting spot of the season since starting second in the second race of the year at Texas Motor Speedway .

Colton Herta will start third at 1:07.0262 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, with Felix Rosenqvist fourth at 1:07.2163 in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, Scott Dixon fifth at 1:07.4047 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Simon Pagenaud round out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:07.4199 in the No. 60 Auto Nation/Sirius XM Honda.

David Malukas was the fastest rookie of the day and nearly qualified for his second Firestone Fast Six, with a best lap of 1:06.8201 on lap 2, good enough for eighth in the number 18 HMD Honda.

Malukas led a trio of rookies to qualify in the top 10. Kyle Kirkwood qualified ninth at 1:06.9506 in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet for his best qualifying effort of his career, and Callum Ilott qualified as 10th at 1:06.9534 in the Nr. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet.

It was a challenging day for the three drivers who led the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship.

Points leader Marcus Ericsson, who won the Gainbridge presented double point Indianapolis 500, was best of the rest in Group 1 of round 1 of qualifying. Ericsson set a best lap of 1:07.1475 and will start the 13th Sunday in the No. 8 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda.

Will Power is second in the standings, 27 points behind Ericsson, and he will be worse off on the starting grid. In Group 1 of lap 1 of qualifying, Power swung back and forth to warm up his tires for a quick run. In doing so, he hindered Helio Castroneves’ lap in the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda. Power, who had the fastest lap of the group, was penalized for the incident and lost his two fastest qualifying laps of the session. Falling back to a best lap of 1:07.5559, Power starts 21st in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. It marks his third consecutive start outside the top 15 and his worst ever start in Mid-Ohio.

Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden, who is 32 points behind Ericsson in third place and has racked up three wins this season, qualified a frustrating 14th place in the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet with a best lap time of 1:07.3338.

Two-time series champion Newgarden struggled to find an open track that would allow him to set a fast lap without the hindrance of slower cars, and he matched his worst qualifying effort of 2022. He also started 14th in the Indy 500.

O’Ward hopes to capitalize on a well-known trend for Mid-Ohio INDYCAR SERIES polesitters: winning the race. Fifteen times, the INDYCAR SERIES polesitter has won the race in Mid-Ohio, including the last three Mid-Ohio polesitters (Power, Herta and Newgarden).

O’Ward, who has taken one win at Barber Motorsports Park this season, is confident he can continue that trend.

“It’s huge, man,” he said. “It’s a track position race. The best position we’ve had here is 15th, so first is definitely a lot better than that. †

A final pre-race practice session will be held on Sunday at 9:45 a.m. (ET). Live coverage will be on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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