Josef Newgarden won the NTT P1 Award this afternoon after driving to the pole for the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, the opening event of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
Reigning series champion and 2019 Texas race winner Newgarden posted a two-lap average speed of 215.740 mph in the No. 1 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet on the last attempt of the session. Two-time series champion Newgarden earned the ninth pole of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career and first since last August on the oval at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
The start of the 2020 season was delayed by nearly three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Racing resumed today at the 1.5-mile TMS oval under sunny skies, with air temperatures in the mid-90s and track temperatures in the mid-130s.
Official Qualification Results: The Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway
Starting Lineup: The Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway
“It’s great to be back doing what we love,” Newgarden said. “I love driving an Indy car and getting to work with these great people at Team Penske. We just have a blast trying to make these cars fast.
“I don’t want to say I was surprised. It felt like the car was quick. I didn’t know if we had enough to beat (Scott) Dixon. He looked really good in his qual trim, but I thought the XPEL car was great. I just tried to do as much as I could to stay flat.”
Five-time series champion Dixon will start second in the 200-lap race tonight (8 p.m. ET, NBC) after posting a two-lap average of 215.638 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“I probably left a little on the table, which is somewhat frustrating,” Dixon said. “But all three Chip Ganassi Racing cars are running well. Hopefully we can get the PNC Bank car back in Victory Lane here in Texas.”
Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud qualified third at 215.464 in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded from a crash during practice earlier this afternoon and qualified fourth at 214.311 in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
“These guys on the 28 team did a great job,” Hunter-Reay said of Andretti Autosport’s speedy repairs in about two hours between practice and qualifying. “They thrashed to put this car together. We had to make sure everything’s absolutely perfect on an oval. It’s not easy. They did an amazing job.”
Hunter-Reay’s teammate Zach Veach rounded out the top five at 213.981 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Tony Kanaan qualified a solid 10th as he started his “TK Final Lap” farewell tour to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Kanaan’s two-lap average speed was 213.388 in the No. 14 7-ELEVEN/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet painted in the iconic green, white and red 7-Eleven livery in which he won the series championship in 2004.
Track conditions were slick in qualifying and practice earlier today due to the sunshine and hot air and track temperatures, with three separate incidents in practice and one in qualifying.
In qualifying, 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato was unhurt during after his No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda spun in Turn 1 on his second warmup lap and did a three-quarter spin into the SAFER Barrier. The car suffered heavy damage to its left front and nose. Sato climbed from the car with assistance of AMR INDYCAR Safety Team.
“It was a big moment,” Sato said. “It was only a warmup lap, and I lost the back end as soon as I turned in. Usually it doesn’t happen that way, so it caught me with a big surprise.”
Rookie Rinus VeeKay did not attempt to qualify and will start 24th in the race in the No. 21 Sonax Chevrolet after a crash during practice earlier today.
VeeKay’s left-side tires dipped below the white line at the inside of the racing surface, causing the car to do a half-spin and hit the SAFER Barrier with the left-rear and left side of the car. VeeKay was unhurt and cleared to drive. Ed Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay also were unhurt in separate incidents in practice, and both participated in qualifying.