On Saturday, Colton Herta captured his sixth career pole for Andretti Autosport at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Herta looked strong in the weekend’s two practice sessions heading into qualifying, and he delivered when it counted.
Colton Herta Makes Firestone Fast Six Look Easy
Herta was able to advance from the first qualifying session on his primary tires, meaning that he had a fresh set of reds in the Firestone Fast Six. The #26 Gainbridge Honda was better than every car in the field, which is a credit to Herta’s fearless driving and race team.
On the final lap of the Firestone Fast Six, Herta amazed the thousands in attendance in Nashville with a 1:13.6835 lap time. Before this trip around the temporary street circuit, no driver had broken 1:14.
Herta’s 102.601 mph speed around the tracked gave him the Bryan Clauson Pole Trophy, named after the USAC Racing legend who died in a crash five years ago to the day.
Following Herta was Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist, and Romain Grosjean. Yet, Palou was penalized for breaking IndyCar rules at Mid-Ohio, so he will face a six-spot penalty.
Josef Newgarden Misses Cut
Hometown hero Josef Newgarden missed the Firestone Fast Six after being penalized for a crash. He finished the second qualifying session in sixth, which would have put him in the final group.
The end of the day was bittersweet for Newgarden, who will start 12th next to teammate Will Power. The debris from his car was the reason he was penalized in the session.
It was another poor showing for Team Penske as none of the drivers made the Firestone Fast Six. Every driver on the team is talented enough to win on Sunday, but this season has not been ideal for Penske drivers.
Newgarden has the lone win of the year for the team at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Looking Ahead to Tomorrow
Colton Herta may start first tomorrow, but anything can happen in the Music City GP. The Andretti driver believes it’s going to be the craziest start of the year.
He has an advantage starting in the front with clean air, but he made it clear that winning in Nashville from the pole will not be an easy task.
After the pole win, Herta said, “I think this is going to be the craziest start of the year. We’re going to be going quite quick from where the start zone is, going into an off-camber second-gear corner, that’s like 60 miles an hour, 70 miles an hour. So definitely it’s going to be interesting.”
Race strategy will be critical to winning on Sunday, but this is the inaugural race, so it will be a learn as you go situation. Depending on when the cautions come out, there could be an unexpected winner.
Scott Dixon spoke about the spontaneous yellow flags that are bound to come out tomorrow.
“It’s going to be a track that’s pretty easy to make mistakes if you kind of lose concentration for a little bit. Where the grip is, how close you have to get to the walls to get that grip is definitely going to be tough. It’s going to be a track that’s pretty easy to make mistakes if you kind of lose concentration for a little bit. Where the grip is, how close you have to get to the walls to get that grip is definitely going to be tough.”
The inaugural Music City Grand Prix is going to be an IndyCar race for the ages. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 5:30 PM ET on Sunday, and the race can be seen on NBC Sports Network.