Colton Herta crushes Long Beach record en route to pole

Colton Herta blitzed the track record en route to taking pole for tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda was joined in the Fast Six by Andretti Autosport teammates Romain Grojean and Alexander Rossi along with Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist.

Defending series champion Alex Palou kicked set the early benchmark in the six-minute shootout with a sticker set of Firestone Reds with a lap of 1 minute 5.5055 seconds. Herta Awaited until the waning seconds to lap the 1.98-mile street circuit in 1:05.8667s.

Grojean temporarily took the outside front row spot and looked as if he would unseat Herta, but a mechanical issue sent him into the Turn 5 wall. The incident brought out the red flag with two seconds remaining in the session.

A constituent in the IndyCar rulebook allowed drivers a final opportunity to make a single lap to better their position.

Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist were the only takers – but neither improved their position.

The pole is Herta’s eighth of his career and his first at Long Beach. The 22-year-old from nearby Valencia, California, who won at Long Beach in September, was elated to add the pole to his resume.

“I mean, as a young kid, I always dreamed of being an IndyCar driver and that’s because of this race,” said Herta, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. “And so, finally to get the win last year was amazing and we checked another box off today with the pole. It feels incredible.”

Grojean’s shunt promoted Josef Newgarden to second place ahead of Palou in third and Rosenqvist in fourth. Completing the top five was Alexander Rossi while a penalty relegated Grojean to sixth.

Former Long Beach winner Will Power just missed the Fast Six and ended up seventh ahead of Marcus Ericson in eighth.

Series points leader Scott McLaughlin wound up ninth ahead of 2016 Long Beach winner Simon Pagenaud.

Some notable names were buried midpack as Pato O’ Ward slotted in 11th while Helio Castroneves came home 14th and Scott Dixon ended up 16th.

Jimmie Johnson returned to the cockpit after fracturing his hand in a practice crash yesterday, but struggled to 25th spot.

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