PORTLAND, Ore. - Alex Palou rebounded from a disappointing stretch of recent results by winning the NTT P1 Award for the Grand Prix of Portland on Saturday at Portland International Raceway.
Palou earned his first career NTT IndyCar Series pole with a top lap of 58.7701 seconds in the No. 10 Honda, putting the finishing touches on a dominant Saturday under sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures in the Pacific Northwest. He led the second qualifying session, was second quickest in his first qualifying group and led morning practice.
“I’m super happy with my first pole in IndyCar,” Palou said. “We’re starting on the best position tomorrow, and we know we have a really fast car. I cannot wait for tomorrow’s race.”
The 110-lap race on the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday, live on NBC and the IndyCar Radio Network.
Spaniard Palou will earn one point for the pole, valuable as he entered this event 10 points behind championship leader Pato O’Ward. Palou started on pole for the Genesys 300 in early May at Texas Motor Speedway, but qualifying for that event was canceled due to weather delays, with the starting lineup set by entrant points.
The strong performance at Portland was a powerful rebound from Palou’s two worst finishes of the season in the last two races, 27th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with a mechanical problem and 20th at World Wide Technology Raceway after being taken out in a crash.
“This motivates us, but we were already fully motivated,” Palou said. “We all know that the last two race weekends we had, it was out of our control. So, we’re fully laser-focused on these three races we have to get that championship home, and we’ll try to get that.”
Alexander Rossi will join Palou on the front row after qualifying second at 58.8573, tying his best starting position of the season.
The second row consists of title contender and six-time series champion Scott Dixon in third with a best lap of 58.8673 and Felix Rosenqvist fourth at 58.9505.
Graham Rahal qualified a season-best fifth at 59.0067. Colton Herta rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 59.2796, as his gamble of being the only driver in the Fast Six to use Firestone primary “black” tires instead of alternate “red” tires didn’t pay off.
The pole position was even more valuable for Palou than the bonus point. Dixon was the only other one of the five drivers in contention for the 2021 championship to advance to the Firestone Fast Six. That could give Palou some breathing room on the PIR circuit, where passing opportunities aren’t plentiful, and the tight turn 1 chicane is a flashpoint for potential collisions at the start and on restarts for cars in a thicket of traffic.
Championship leader O’Ward qualified seventh after being eliminated by teammate Rosenqvist by .0103 of a second on the last lap of the second qualifying session. Marcus Ericsson, 60 points behind O’Ward in fifth, qualified 10th.
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, 22 points behind O’Ward in third, will start 18th in the 27-car field.
Newgarden’s qualifying troubles were a symptom of larger woes for Team Penske. All four Penske drivers – Newgarden, 2019 Portland winner Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and rookie Scott McLaughlin – were eliminated in the first round of road or street course qualifying for the first time this season.
British driver Callum Ilott qualified 19th for his series debut. Ferrari Formula One test driver Ilott was the second-quickest of the four series rookies in the field, behind only McLaughlin, who qualified 15th.
NTT IndyCar Series
Portland International Raceway – Portland, OR
Grand Prix of Portland – September 11, 2021
Saturday’s Starting Line Up
1. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 58.7701 seconds (120.306 mph)
2. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 58.8573 (120.128)
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 58.8673 (120.107)
4. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 58.9505 (119.938)
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 59.0067 (119.824)
6. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 59.2796 (119.272)
7. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 58.9732 (119.892)
8. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 59.0247 (119.787)
9. (45) Oliver Askew, Honda, 59.0837 (119.668)
10. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 59.0901 (119.655)
11. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 59.2346 (119.363)
12. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 59.2419 (119.348)
13. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 59.2537 (119.324)
14. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 59.0032 (119.831)
15. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 59.3563 (119.118)
16. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 59.0974 (119.640)
17. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 59.4190 (118.992)
18. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 59.1371 (119.559)
19. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 59.5008 (118.829)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 59.1463 (119.541)
21. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 59.6344 (118.562)
22. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 59.1885 (119.456)
23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 59.7120 (118.408)
24. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 59.1953 (119.442)
25. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, No Time (No Speed)
26. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 59.6591 (118.513)
27. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 59.7438 (118.345)