One ten-thousandth of a second. That’s less time than it takes to blink an eye, snap a finger or think a thought.
But that was all that separated Juncos Racing’s Rinus Van Kalmthout (VeeKay) from his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title rival Oliver Askew of Andretti Autosport in qualifying for the second Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland race of the weekend.
And what that calculates to, though, is exactly two tenths of an inch over 1.964 miles at 111.762 mph average speed.
Naturally, there were differing viewpoints from the pair of Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires stars about the microscopic margin of pole and the championship point that went with it. VeeKay’s 1:03.2629 lap was just ahead of Askew’s 1:03.2630.
“It’s amazing! It was so close, but we were good on the used tires,” VeeKay said after securing his fifth pole this season. “Then with one lap to go, the last lap, they told me save the tires to get it. That’s incredible to get the pole.”
“It shows how short and close the times are. So close… yet so far away,” Askew said.
This marks the sixth time this year they’ll share the front row together.
Prior to Saturday’s second qualifying session, TSO caught up with VeeKay and Megennis to see how they maximized their performances on Friday and how they’d look to carry that momentum over on Saturday.
TSO spoke with VeeKay late Friday evening after scoring the race one pole. VeeKay noted how he has had to retrain and recalibrate his brain to remember the Indy Lights braking points back in this car, after feeling so confident about being able to go even later when in the Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar he tested here earlier this month. Even so, he said the Juncos Racing team made some changes in-between his first and second runs to better optimize the setup for his eventual pole lap.
TSO also talked to Megennis Saturday morning. The Andretti Autosport rookie and Fordham University student noted he’s felt the best he has in several race weekends and said the car responded better to his input on Friday. He qualified third for race one.
Anyway at 9:40 a.m., Askew led the trio of Andretti Autosport, pair of Juncos Racing and HMD Motorsports and singular Belardi Auto Racing cars onto the track for the 30-minute qualifying for race two. Temperatures of 70F ambient and 83F track greeted the competitors for the morning session.
Ryan Norman went through the Festival Curves on his third lap but resumed after braking a bit too deep.
Within the first 10 minutes, times were already quicker than the Friday pole time. Askew was first into the 1:03s at 1:03.8712, ahead of David Malukas, Norman, VeeKay and Megennis.
Times continued to drop with Askew (1:03.6876) and VeeKay (1:03.6987) then covered by just 0.0111 of a second at the halfway point in the session.
Teams bolted on fresh sets of Cooper Tires for the run to the checkered flag and as expected the times tumbled.
The pair of HMD Motorsports drivers, first Malukas and then Toby Sowery, took their turns atop the charts.
But Askew and VeeKay both responded with aplomb and continued getting quicker, and eventually had the aforementioned microscopic gap between the two of them.
It looked like Askew had the pole with his time of 1:03.2630. But then VeeKay went faster by exactly one ten-thousandth of a second, at a lap of 1:03.2629.
The HMD Motorsports teammates of Sowery and Malukas were next, with Sowery only a tenth back on his own. That may of well have been another zip code behind by comparison.
Series veterans Norman and Kellett share row three ahead of Megennis and Lucas Kohl.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – Qualifying Race #2
|1||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||1:03.263||–.—-||20|
|2||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||1:03.263||0.0001||19|
|3||2||Toby Sowery||HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey||1:03.364||0.1010||23|
|4||79||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||1:03.527||0.2643||23|
|5||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:03.638||0.3752||20|
|6||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||1:03.649||0.3861||21|
|7||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:03.889||0.6264||21|
|8||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||1:04.183||0.9203||21|