Andretti Autosport once again had two drivers make headlines during the second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session at Portland International Raceway.
However while for most of the year it’s been Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, this morning it was O’Ward and Ryan Norman, for completely different reasons.
Norman scored his maiden pole in Indy Lights competition. But an off by O’Ward at Turn 4 leaves his Andretti crew facing a scramble drill to repair his damaged car before today’s first race of the weekend.
Qualifying for race two took place under cloudy skies just after 9:50 a.m. on Saturday morning.
For O’Ward, the opportunity to extend his record of pole positions in a season to 10 was there for the taking. But the chance came unglued shortly into the 30-minute session.
Six of the eight cars went out immediately after the green flag, with Juncos Racing’s pair of Victor Franzoni and Heamin Choi out next. Choi was back out for the first time since his incident in practice on Friday, after only completing three laps.
Early times were in the 1:07 range as the field of eight drivers warmed their Cooper Tires up to temperatures.
Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz posted a 1:05.525 before his former Pro Mazda teammate O’Ward eclipsed that at 1:04.553.
There was a red flag with 22 minutes remaining, for O’Ward going wide, off course into the tires in Turn 4.
Per the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, the No. 27 Dallara IL-15 Mazda car was “not OK” while O’Ward was reported to get out of his car. Here is a photo of the car via @RoadToIndyTV.
Meanwhile the Andretti Autosport team was also checking the gearbox line of O’Ward’s teammate Norman’s car, as the engine cover was off the back of his car.
The No. 27 car was taken back to the paddock with left front suspension and nose damage. With less than four hours until the race start at 2:05 p.m. PT, the Andretti Autosport team faces a last-minute thrash to ensure O’Ward can make the start.
The session resumed with 10 and a half minutes remaining, and with O’Ward now sidelined and dropped down the order, the provisional grid was Colton Herta (1:04.963), Santi Urrutia, Victor Franzoni, Aaron Telitz, Ryan Norman, Patricio O’Ward, Dalton Kellett and Heamin Choi.
With limited time remaining, most teams bolted on a fresh set of sticker Coopers for the final run to the checkered flag.
Telitz improved to 1:04.786 to take the provisional pole with just over four minutes remaining.
Another red flag flew with just under four minutes remaining. Franzoni went off at Turn 11 and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team quickly came to retrieve it. Franzoni got back going, out of the grass and into pit lane.
This was a quick red flag and with just over two minutes remaining everyone scrambled to get back out, with Herta, Norman, Kellett and Urrutia all in close quarters as Urrutia tried to pass the remaining three Andretti drivers. Telitz and Franzoni were out next and Choi, who was 19.5 seconds off pace, remained in the pits.
Telitz had 0.1765 of a second over Herta with Urrutia, Franzoni and Norman the provisional top five before the final laps.
However Norman went to the top at 1:04.5968 after the green flag to snatch the provisional pole.
He improved to 1:04.0687, a full half second quicker. Urrutia and Telitz both came close but were unable to topple the Gateway winner. Telitz missed by only 0.0079 of a second, at 1:04.0766.
For Norman this is his first pole ahead of his 32nd (Saturday) and 33rd (Sunday) races in Indy Lights. His best grid position had been second twice, most recently at Gateway Motorsports Park where he won last week.
“We weren’t so strong in Qualifying 1. But we slept on it and hit the marks,” Norman told IndyCar Radio. “I have to thank this team so much for what they’re doing for me. After Gateway, now I’m focused on race wins. At the same time I want to stay consistent.”
Telitz is second with Urrutia third and Herta only fourth, ahead of Franzoni, Kellett, O’Ward and Choi.
The first race of the weekend goes green later today at 2:05 p.m., with the main focus now on how the No. 27 car repairs go for O’Ward.
Indy Lights Qualifying #2 – Unofficial Results