Felix Rosenqvist Earns Much-Needed Pole on Slick Texas Track | Car race

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Felix Rosenqvist earned a much-needed pole Saturday in qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway, where IndyCar is desperately trying to develop a second passing lane in what could be the final race of the series at track.

Roseqnqvist did a lap at 221.110mph in his Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and time stopped as 16 drivers tried to knock him off pole. Scott McLaughlin, winner of the season-opening race at St. Petersburg last month, was the last driver to qualify and nearly dropped the Swede from the pole position.

McLaughlin was 221.096 for Team Penske to just miss the pole but gave Chevrolet a lock of the front row.

Takuma Sato qualified third in a Honda for Dale Coyne Racing and was followed by Team Penske driver Will Power as Chevrolet took three of the top four spots.

Six-time Texas winner Scott Dixon, winner of the first race in a doubleheader last year, qualified fourth for Chip Ganassi Racing and was followed by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank. Racing.

Jimmie Johnson, the all-time winningest driver at Texas with seven NASCAR wins, qualified 18th in his debut on the IndyCar oval. It was his best qualifying effort in 14 IndyCar races.

For Rosenqvist, it was the second pole of his career since joining IndyCar in 2019. He is coming off a terrible first season with McLaren and admitted qualifying on Saturday was a confidence boost.

“It’s been necessary for a while,” Rosenqvist said. “Going into this week we always know we have a good car here and I felt confident. There was no reason why we shouldn’t be strong here.”

IndyCar has raced at Texas since the track opened in 1997 and Sunday will mark the 35th time America’s premier single-seater series has competed on the 1.5-mile oval. Attendance has dwindled over the years and a track reconfiguration and adaptations made for NASCAR have made Texas a poor fit for IndyCar.

NASCAR and Texas officials use a cornering traction compound to help create a second passing lane for NASCAR, but the PJ1 compound does not match the Firestone tires used in IndyCar. It makes a high line that is too slippery and dangerous for IndyCar drivers.

Very few drivers even dared to move into the second lane during Saturday morning practice.

“I looked at it and almost crashed,” Alexander Rossi said. “He looked back, and he was like, ‘Stay away, bitch.'”

The traction compound has turned recent IndyCar races into a single-groove snoozer that follows the leader and Dixon blew out the field in the first race last year. The second race was a bit more competitive with 12 lead changes among nine drivers before Pato O’Ward, a Mexican driver living in San Antonio, won the first race of his career.

IndyCar will attempt to make a second lane later on Saturday afternoon when seven drivers head out for a 30-minute session to try to build grip on the track. Drivers were skeptical, even those planning to run the special session.

“I don’t think it’s enough to put a check there,” said Castroneves, who will lead the special session. “Right now it’s super slippery, the speeds we’re going at and there’s no way we can do two lanes. It’s like painting a house, you can’t wash it off and take it away.”

The current contract between Texas and IndyCar expires after Sunday’s race and there has been strong speculation that if the show doesn’t improve, IndyCar will not return. But IndyCar owner Roger Penske said earlier Saturday that that’s premature talk.

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