McLaughlin racing in ‘Fast Six’ at Music City

Nashville, Tenn. Scott McLaughlin won his second career NTT P1 with a thrilling fast lap in the last 10 seconds of Saturday’s Firestone “Fast Six” event for Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Series.

With 10 seconds left in the session, McLaughlin crossed the timing line with a lap of 1:14.5555 around the temporary 11-lap, 2.1-mile street circuit in a #3 Chevrolet for Team Penske.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard finished first with 30 seconds left before Romain Grosjean overtook him after 15 seconds.

But it was McLaughlin who made perfect use of his timing by winning the pole.

“This car is really good and we are now in pole position in Nashville,” said McLaughlin. “Man. It’s one of those good laps. I think we have more of the same to race. We have to think upside down, and up. We really need good pitstops tomorrow.”

Grosjean will start second in DHL Honda’s #28 race for Andretti Autosport.

Lundgaard will start third in the Honda’s 30th-ranked Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“The weekend started off well,” Lundgaard said. “It was a very exciting session. I don’t usually like street rinks but after Toronto and today, I started to really like them.”

Alex Ballou will line up for fourth in his #10 NTT Honda. (Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski photos)

NTT IndyCar Series reigning champion Alex Ballou will rank fourth with a lap difference of 1:14.9087 in the NTT Honda No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing race. Patou’s Award No. 5 Chevrolet finished fifth with a time of 1:14.9261 with Hendersonville’s Joseph Newgarden of Tennessee winning the Fast Six of 1:15.1461 in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Lundgaard suffered a massive lock-up on the right front just two minutes into the session but managed to keep his #30 Honda off the wall. He drove into the pits to change tires.

With the clock ticking at a minute, McLaughlin’s No. 3 Chevrolet was on top at 1:15.2275 but it was a hot chase from the other five drivers in the session.

After a long pause due to lightning in the area, the qualifications finally started at 6 PM (EST). It wasn’t long before Devlin DeFrancesco came down a hill from the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge to flash the red flag in the first set of Part One.

This means that he will not be allowed to advance to the next segment.

Instead of using Firestone ‘Reds’, this weekend’s softer composite tire was Firestone ‘Greens’ made from Guayule – a drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant woody desert shrub native to the American Southwest.

Natural rubber can be extracted from twigs, bark, and roots to produce national rubber (tyres), resin (adhesives, tire additives, diesel fuel), and woody materials called bagasse (energy, liquid fuels and building products).

Firestone is making the transition to sustainable tires because Guayule can be grown and harvested in the southwestern United States.

Colton Herta, who owned the dominant car in this race last year only to have a crash near the finish, took out the red flag when he shut off the front wheels in Turn 4.

It also means that he cannot advance to the next part.

It also means Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi will not advance to the second part because the Hertha accident caused the clock to run out without Rossi having a chance to improve his time.

Rossi’s time was 1:21.4579, eighth in the group.

Among the drivers ahead are Palo in 1:15.9983 in No.10 Honda, Jack Harvey 1:16.6324 in No.45 Honda, David Malukas 1:16.6882 in No.18 Honda, Joseph Newgarden 1:16.7541 in No.2 Chevy, Rinus Vikai 1: 17.7101 at No. 21 Chevrolet and – believe it or not – Dalton Kellett 1: 17.7521 at No. 4 Chevrolet.

It’s the first time Kellett has progressed to the second part of the Road and Road track qualification.

The drivers who missed the lead were Simon Pagenaud in 1:19.4039 in the #60 Honda, Felix Rosenqvist at 1:21.1784 in the #7 Chevrolet, Rossi 1:21.4579 in the #27 Honda, Calum Ellot 1:57.6982 at No. 77 Chevrolet and Herta 3: 26.3303 at No. 26 Honda.

DeFrancesco didn’t have time as Simon De Silvestro did.

In the second set, Jimmy Johnson was among the first to take the Firestone Greens circuit as a “banker” lap in case more drivers took out the red flag. The other drivers in his group were all black.

Johnson returned to the pit lane to get another set of Firestone Greens in an effort to improve his chances.

But at first, it was an exciting battle for first place in which some familiar names were mixed with some newcomers.

At the end of the session, Power was on top at 1:14.760 in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.

He was followed by Penske’s teammate McLaughlin in 1:14.7742 in a No. 3 Chevrolet, rookie Christian Lundgaard’s No. 30 Honda at 1:14.8331, Romain Grosjean at 1:15.1382 mph in a No. 28 Honda, Pato O’Ward’s No. 5.Chevrolet at 1:15.1494 and Graham Rahal 1:15.2383.

Drivers who missed the cut included Scott Dixon, Championship contender No. 9 Chevrolet in 1:15.3179, Kyle Kirkwood Chevrolet in 1; 15.4382, defending champion Marcus Ericsson in 1:15.4501, Takuma Sato’s #51 Honda in 1:15.5935, Conor Daly’s No 20 Chevrolet in 1:16.3955, Helio Castroneves’ #06 Honda in 1:16.5898 and Johnson’s #48 Honda in 1:17.5888.

Defending champion Marcus Ericsson missed qualifying. (Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski photos)

“We’ll have to come up with a good strategy and then make it work in the race as well,” said Ericsson. “It’s a little weird. We have a bit of work tonight and hopefully we can be competitive in the race tomorrow.

“If there’s anyone in this lane who can fight from back to front, it’s this team. We have to be smart. I’m sure we’ll come up with something smart.”

This resulted in a battle of 12 drivers in Part 2.

In the second set, Lundgaard moved from last to first with 2:30 remaining in the session. It was a very competitive battle with Power and O’Ward trading first before Lundgaard came back with another lap to take back first.

When Lundgaard was in the hole, McLaughlin moved into pole position, but was pushed out by Palou a few seconds later.

When the session ended, the drivers that made it to the “Fast Six” included Palou’s 1:14.6437 at No. 10 Honda, McLaughlin’s Chevrolet at 1:14.6788, Romain Grosjean’s 1.14.7679, Lundgaard’s 1:14.8086, Newgarden’s 1:14.8284 and strength 1:14.8943 .

However, Power’s fastest lap was under review as he took off into the runoff zone causing the local yellow.

Before he could get back on the track, O’Ward’s car was on a flight. Taking out the local yellow, as per IndyCar rule, Power’s lap wouldn’t count and he rebounded to eighth in 1:14.9818 in a No. 12 Chevy.

That moved O’Ward to sixth place at 1:14.9373.

“It was nice to be in the Fast Six, but I couldn’t cut a gap big enough for VeeKay, and I lost it,” Bauer said. “It’s always tough on the court with the ring position, the penalty shootout and getting into Reed’s hands, it’s tough. We can have a great day tomorrow. We just have to have good strategy, good stops and see what we have.”

Missing in the Fast Six were Honda Mallukas’s 1:14.9616, Power’s, Graham Rahal’s 1:15.3112, VeeKay’s 1:15.3897, Harvey’s 1:15.9758 and Kellett’s 1:16.5600.

That paved the way for “Fast Six”.