Josef Newgarden, Penske, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2024

Newgarden on pole for season-opener, champion Palou 13th


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Josef Newgarden will start the first race of the new IndyCar season from pole position at St Petersburg.

However Alex Palou had a tricky start to his title defence. He was eliminated in the first round and will start from the middle of pack.

The pair were drawn together in the first half of the field for round one of qualifying. Newgarden progressed along with team mate Scott McLaughlin, as did McLaren’s Pato O’Ward who narrowly missed out on victory at the track last year. However Alexander Rossi in the other McLaren joined Palou in elimination.

In the second half of the field, Romain Grosjean and Felix Rosenqvist brought joy to their new teams – Juncos Hollinger and Meyer Shank respectively – by securing their passage to the second round. Will Power ensured a full complement of Penskes in the Fast 12, while Scott Dixon, Marcus Armstrong and their new team mate Linus Lundqvist upheld honours for Ganassi after Palou’s unexpected demise.

Among those who went no further was Foyt driver Santino Ferrucci. But under the circumstances, having been unable to run in the earlier practice session due to brake trouble, falling short by two hundredths of a second was nothing to be ashamed of.

With lap times under the one-minute mark, the margins to secure a place in the final six were razor-thin. Newgarden was the only Penske driver to make it though, McLaughlin falling short by three-hundredths of a second, Power by two. They weren’t even quickest of those who went no further: Carpenter driver Rinus VeeKay failed to reach the Fast Six by one hundredth.

Rosenqvist led after the first exchanges in the Fast Six contest, followed by Grosjean. But the prospects of a new-look front row were soon shattered.

O’Ward produced a 59.7417s lap to take over the top spot. He improved further on his final run, but by less than a tenth of a second, after gathering up a snap of oversteer at turn 11.

That opened the door for Newgarden, who banged in a 59.5714 to jump to the top of the times. Rosenqvist was the only threat remaining, but fell short by five-thousandths of a second.

They will share the front row ahead of O’Ward and Colton Herta. Grosjean claimed fifth ahead of another ex-F1 driver in a new car, Marcus Ericsson, now at Andretti.

Marcus Armstrong will be the first of Ganassi’s five drivers on the grid, starting 10th, one place ahead of team mate Scott Dixon. Among the rookie contingent, none of which progressed beyond the first round, Tom Blomqvist claimed the highest starting position in 17th.

Times to follow.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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One comment on “Newgarden on pole for season-opener, champion Palou 13th”

  1. The quali was awesome, I can’t wait for the race! I was surprised Palou didn’t get into the Fast Six.

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