Rookie VeeKay wins first career NTT P1 Award at INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1

NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Rinus VeeKay won the NTT P1 Award for his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position Thursday, Oct. 1 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

VeeKay, 20, posted a top lap of 1 minute, 9.6903 seconds, 125.992 mph in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet in Group 2 of qualifying for Friday’s INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR. Live coverage of the 85-lap race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course starts at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on USA Network.

“It was tough,” VeeKay said. “I was not very happy with the car this morning, but (Team Manager) Tim (Broyles) and I sat down and we found some great stuff. A lot of work was put in here. I put in a good lap, so I’m very happy with that. Finally, finally, my first pole.”

RESULTS: INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1 Qualifying

Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden will line up alongside VeeKay in second. Newgarden, who is second in the point standings, was awarded one point for setting the fastest time in Group 1 with a time of 1:10.4706 in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Colton Herta qualified third in the No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda at 1:09.7048. Will Power qualified fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:10.5686, and 2020 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole sitter Marco Andretti rounded out the top five at 1:09.7140.

The additional point for Newgarden could be beneficial in his quest for a third Astor Challenge Cup. Newgarden has steadily cut into points leader Scott Dixon’s edge over the last month. He entered this event down 72 points and will start Friday’s race with a deficit of 71.

Newgarden locked in the fastest time after a bit of luck.

With four minutes left in Group 1, Takuma Sato, the 2020 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner, went off track in Turn 4 and got stuck in a gravel trap, forcing a red flag. Sato was pulled out of the gravel and refired with 1:20 left in the session. However, with track cleanup still required, that brought an end to the session.

“That’s probably the luckiest we’ve been as far as yellow flags go this year,” Newgarden said. “I just wish we had gotten it in the race, but we’re not going to complain. We were quick on blacks (primary tires). The car felt awesome right out of the box. Some of the issues we were struggling with in practice were gone. You couldn’t see super well in Turn 12 or Turn 13, so you were guessing a little bit coming on to that front straightaway. But it made for an interesting session.”

With the lack of time in Group 1, Dixon was unable to return to the track to set a faster time in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon, who won July’s GMR Grand Prix at IMS, will start 12th.

‘What They Are Saying’ from the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR Race 1 Qualifying

1st – RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “It was tough. I was not very happy with the car this morning, but Tim (Broyles) and I sat down  and we found some great stuff. Great team. A lot of work was put in here. I put in a good lap, so I’m very happy with that. Finally, finally, my first pole.” (Can you get your first win tomorrow?): “That would be amazing. Yeah, of course, we’re going for that win now. But anything can happen. This a crazy track. Everyone is super-talented here. So, we’re going to do everything we can, but it’s not going to be easy.  What a great qualifying. A pole position, I can check that off my list. The only thing that should follow is a podium or a win. I would like to end the season with at least one of those, too. The SONAX car was fine on blacks (primary tires), but it really came alive on the reds (alternate tires). We made a little wing adjustment and had a great lap. We worked hard in the hours between practice and qualifying, then the car was amazing. I am very happy. Thank you to all of my guys, SONAX,  Autogeek and Chevrolet.”

2nd – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a good day. Pretty happy with qualifying. Got a little bit lucky with the yellow. But I felt like we were quick on merit. We were quickest in that first group of attempts , so I felt really positive about that. I think we would have had a really good shot, if it didn’t go yellow, to get the pole, too. But a front row start for tomorrow is going to be great. The Hitachi Chevy honestly felt fantastic right from the start, which was a good turnaround from practice. Team Chevy has done a great job. Our straight-line speed looks fantastic, so I feel very confident for the race tomorrow that we can make it count.”

3rd – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda): “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Obviously, we have a really good  starting spot with third. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow with how the windows work and all the strategy that’s going to happen with the (primary) blacks and (alternate) r eds. I’m interested to see what tires everyone starts on because I think it’s going to play a huge role in tomorrow’s race. Overall, a great starting spot of third for the Gleaners car, and I think we have a really good shot at a winning and creating even more awareness for the No One Runs On Empty campaign.”

4th – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a good qualifying session. We were looking for more speed on the reds (alternate tires), but unfortunately the yellow came out when our group was on track and ended qualifying early. I think we could have found more speed had we had more time on track,  but that’s how racing goes sometimes. I feel really good about my Verizon Chevy for tomorrow’s race. We’re starting up near the front, which is great. We’re racing for wins, so we’re going to give the race tomorrow everything we got and will see what happens.”

5th – MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 AutoNation / Curb Honda): “We were on a pole lap for the second event in a row. Then it just snapped loose,  and we lost that tenth (of a second) we needed. It’s a bummer to come that close but a good effort by the 98 AutoNation team, nonetheless. The colder weather is definitely unique with both qualifying this late in the day and racing here this late in the year. It goes both ways: The tires take a little longer to come up (to temperature),  but there is so much downforce and grip that is favoring us. It’s actually better than when we were here in July.”

6th – JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda): “It’s definitely unfortunate that we never got an opportunity to get a lap on red (alternate tires) because I really think we had the pace for pole today. For this to have been our worst qualifying effort in three starts here isn’t so terrible. I’m really proud  of everyone at Meyer Shank Racing for continuing to work so hard because the thing I was worried about coming here was that people expect us to be good here. And everyone on the team worked so hard to put the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda as far forward as possible. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow and work through the field.”

7th – FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t piece together my last lap in the NTT DATA car out there. We’ve been good in qualifying this year,  but I just missed it this time and didn’t really nail it. I was just off the pole time, but P7 is roughly where we’ve been starting on the road courses, and we know we can win from there.”

8th – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda): “I’ve got to be honest: For the first time in five years around here, I feel like we have a pretty good car. I’m really happy  about that. The team did a good job. This (IMS road course) has been a big weakness for us. The NAPA / AutoNation Honda was good. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to do reds (alternate tires) because of the red flag rules, but I think the car is really good and I’m excited for tomorrow.”

9th – MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “It was a super positive qualifying for the Gallagher Chevrolet that could’ve been exceptional. It was unbelievably close out there. I knew it was going to be close because the group before us didn’t get a red (alternate tires) run in,  and they all were within half a second of each other. I made a slight mistake at Turn 4, but in general I was fairly happy with my lap. I need to look at it on the overlay to see if that mistake cost us compared to the next lap. Regardless I extracted a lot out of the car, and we worked really well  as a team today considering we only have one car and one practice session before qualifying and the races. Overall, we had a really strong day today, and I think starting ninth tomorrow puts us in a good position to move forward for a solid result.”

10th – PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “Honestly, the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet improved quite a bit from practice to the little time we got in that qualifying session. That was definitely a positive,  but it was unlucky to get caught out by that red flag and we didn’t get any running on the red alternate tires. I think the car would have been strong on the reds. We will have to see what we can do tomorrow. We will have an extra set of reds since we didn’t really use them in qualifying. It should shake up pretty interestingly in the race.”

Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with qualifying position):

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (16th – No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “A challenging day, just like we expected, maybe a bit harder than I wished it would have been. Happy to be back in the game and get to work with the AJ Foyt Racing crew. It’s a pretty steep  battle. We were trying to do the best we can; the first run on blacks (primary tires) was pretty reasonable. Had a massive lockup with the rear going into Turn 1, which fell a bit on me, but still managed a good fourth lap so that put us in the window in the top group. And then we never got a read on the reds (alternate tires), which is good  and bad because we just don’t know what the car’s going to feel like on the Firestone red tires. Good because we have two sets of brand-new tires to go in the race. We’ll see how it checks out.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (19th – No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I have to thank everyone from Arrow McLaren SP, they did such a great job to accommodate all the little bits that a new driver needs to make everything OK , which is difficult. Everyone, including Robert Wickens and Oliver Askew, were working together to try to maximize the time we had the best we can because of the way the schedule is so compact. For me, it was great. It’s not fun to start in the back, but to this point, it is great to be back. Let’s go for the race; we are going to learn a lot, for sure.”

CONOR DALY (14th – No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “We made some great improvements from practice to qualifying. The U.S. Air Force Chevy was so much better. It was a shame we weren’t able to  run on red tires. Our time on black tires was actually better than our teammate’s, which is really encouraging because Rinus (VeeKay) has always been strong on the black tires. We had so much of a time gain on the reds when we were here on July 4th;  we were really wanted to see what we had this time. It is what it is, though.We know we have a good car. We made some great improvements. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun and we’ll go to the front.”

SCOTT DIXON (12th – No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think for whatever reason the PNC Bank No. 9 car just wasn’t as strong on the black tires this morning. Once we went to the red tires, it got going quite a bit , and we got into the top four or five. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. We didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe we should have tried something different with balance, but at the end of the day we have to keep going. The fight will still be on until someone locks up the championship,  so you have to keep digging deep and moving forward the best you can.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (15th – No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m pretty disappointed with today, to be honest. I think in practice today it was a bit challenging,  and I didn’t get the feeling out of the car I wanted. It still felt like we had potential for qualifying, and it just didn’t happen. It’s not where we want to be or should be, but we’ll work hard to improve the car for tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (20th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “The SealMaster Honda would have been much better on the red (alternate) tires, however INDYCAR  decided not to extend the session after the red flag. We lost a lot of time during the practice session earlier today, and unfortunately that hurt us in the cold weather during qualifying. The race tomorrow should be super exciting because of the fans that are here.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (18th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “It was an up-and-down day for us.W e still haven’t managed to set a single lap on the Firestone reds (alternate tires). We got a red flag in practice at the wrong time, and in qualifying, I tried something on my last lap on the black (primary) tires just to know if it was going to work on the reds , and I was on a lap that would have probably put us sixth in our group and then we didn’t get the chance on reds. I’m a little disappointed to be as far back as we are. I genuinely think we have more pace in the car. It’s tough jumping into a series that’s so competitive with so little track time. We’ve got 85 laps tomorrow to get the Gainbridge Honda to the front,  and that’s where we plan to go.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (13th – No. 28 DHL Honda): “Today wasn’t a straightforward day. We started the day with a setup that just wasn’t clicking for us,  and we had to bail on that for qualifying. I had to learn what this setup would give me as qualifying went on. I had the car snap loose on me coming out of Turn 13, and otherwise that would’ve put us at least in the top six or seven. The conditions are tough in the cold. Tomorrow will be interesting with cold tires; that’ll be a hotspot for everyone. I’m looking forward to working this 28 DHL Honda to the front.”

SAGE KARAM (21st – No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet): “Qualifying was better than in July. I would love to be better. I thought we might be better,  but we had a fuel pressure issue in practice. That cost us almost three-quarters of the session. We never got to run on the Firestone red tires, so it was a blind shot going into qualifying. The car felt good in qualifying,  but I was a little frustrated. I would try too hard and miss a bit of a corner. I’d say, ‘Rats, it cost me a tenth here and a tenth there.’ Unfortunately, with the red tires, you get one shot for a good lap. Not having the ability to run in the full practice session really hurt us. It’s a doubleheader weekend, luckily,  and we learned from this qualifying. We’ll be ready for Saturday qualifying now. Friday’s race is longer than Saturday, and it gives us a different strategy. In July, our race car was good, and we had some bad luck with the yellow flag session. I think we have a pretty good race car after our runs during the July race. We hope we get a few breaks for Friday’s race, too.”

DALTON KELLETT (25th – No. 41 K-Line USA / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I don’t think we quite hit the nail on the head in qualifying, just lacking a bit of rear stability, struggling a little bit and didn’t quite get everything out of the reds (alternate tires). Unfortunate that we’re not starting further up the  grid, but I think we definitely learned some stuff in practice, and I think we’ve got a solid race car. We’ve consistently had better race pace than qualifying pace this year,  so we’ll be looking to make spots on track and in pit lane, make some smart moves, get some passes done early on and the No. 41 crew will be solid in pit lane.So, hopefully we can jump some spots and move up for the race. For Saturday’s qualifying, we’ll be having a look at what Seb(Bourdais)  and Charlie (Kimball) were doing today and see if we can learn anything and if we can all get better as a team. I think there’s definitely some potential there, so looking forward to seeing what we can learn.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (23rd – No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was just a really frustrating session for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevy. We had some really good pace, I think, earlier at times in practice, and even in qualifying, in similar laps to the competitors .We were a little more competitive in that fifth-sixth range, or so. Overall, for me, on that last lap when everyone seemed to take a big step forward and we got stuck at a lap time, we need to figure out what’s going on with that because it seems to be a bit of a frustration we’ve had all year. I know these guys will be really good in pit lane on the pitstops tomorrow  — that’s never a question in my mind. The A.J. Foyt crew works harder than anyone I’ve ever worked with, especially on the pit stops, so we’ll go forward in the race tomorrow and then re-evaluate what we need to do for qualifying on Saturday.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (22nd – No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a real shame that the session was truncated. Definitely not where I want to start. I’m not happy at all. The DXC Technology Chevy was OK . Just need to get on the red tires and put a good lap together. We’ll start in the back, but we’ll go forward. No question about that. These weekends are just too short. It’s been very difficult to adjust. It was a big disappointment today.”

ALEX PALOU (17th – No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda): “The No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda was really strong in practice earlier today,  so I was optimistic heading into qualifying this evening. So, I’m disappointed with our qualifying result:There’s not much to say. The car felt OK, but the speed wasn’t there. The engineers are looking into it. I’m confident we’ll come back strong on the race tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (11th – No. 15 United Rentals Honda):  “To say I’m disappointed with qualifying is an understatement. We ended up sixth in our group by only one-tenth-and-a-half or two-tenths of a second. It’s hard to swallow. You think about all the places that maybe you lost one-tenth (of a second). One-tenth (of a second) would have moved us up to second or third, so it’s a hard one to swallow. Coming from 11th place tomorrow is going to take some work,  but we’ve started in the back and finished third here before, so we can do it again. We just have to have good strategy, be able to get by some of these guys and hope our fitness comes into play and go from there. But when you look at the data, there’s two corners in the snake – Turn 8 and 9 –and literally that’s our loss to everybody ahead of us. We are quicker in every other part of the racetrack  but Turns 8 and 9, so I’ve got to figure it out and we’ve got to get the car a little better. We’ll try to get this United Rentals car up front tomorrow.”

TAKUMA SATO (24th – No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “The car was reasonably good in practice. After the session,  we felt we made good improvement. In qualifying, we were fifth in our group on black (primary) tires after the first run. It was great, but it was better than practice. On the second run, the tire wasn’t up to temp, and I was on the curb and lost grip and went off track. On the red (alternate)  tire, maybe I was relying too much on them and their grip. We lost a set of reds because of that, which is huge, because in the dry race, the red tire was more durable and faster.”