By Patrick Stephan (@TSO_Patrick)

Hunter McElrea celebrates his pole position at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – TSO Photo by Patrick

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session got under for 12 of the 13 cars with the air temp a comfortable 78F (though it’s still a little on the sticky side), and the track at 123.6F. That track temp is higher than I would have expected, but we have lots of bright sunshine so the lower ambient isn’t keeping the track itself from getting fairly warm.

And yes, I did say qualifying started for 12 of the 13.  Ernie Francis, Jr., picked up a five minute penalty this morning for remaining on the track after the checkered flag. He did join the session once the penalty was lifted.

At the halfway point of the session, Matthew Brabham took the lead, but was then surpassed by Hunter McElrea with a 1:13.0894.

Currently 7th in series points, McElrea led both yesterday’s and this morning’s practices.

With 5 minutes to go, he was still leading with a 1:12.4083, just 0.0376 ahead of Benjamin Pedersen, followed by point leader Linus Lundqvist and 5th is Matthew Brabham – who picked up a drive through penalty for a pit lane speed violation in the final minutes.

As we watch the  final minute Linus Lundqvist jumped to P2, just 0.0135 behind McElrea – who then went even quicker than before and will take the pole with a lap of 1:12.1925 – that’s a 0.2292 gap.

Pedersen will start third, with Brabham fourth, then Rasmussen and Sting Ray Robb – #2 in the point standings who will have lots of work to do tomorrow to try and catch Lundqvist and narrow that sizable 82 point gap.

This is McElrea’s fourth front row start of the year and 2nd pole (St. Pete #1).  He hasn’t capitalized on those qualifying efforts yet, going 14th, 12th, 2nd (Indy GP #1) and 6th.

After qualifying a happy McElrea told “Awesome! Start to finish this weekend this car has been on rails and I really feel like this is our weekend to lose. I can’t believe we got the pole by 2 tenths.”

He thought he might have thrown it away with a mistake, but then “I had to get on it on that last lap which was probably more pressure than it should have been.”

In thinking of how to get a final result to match his qualifying speed McElrea said, “I came in to the weekend with a different head space. I think I was forcing it too much, and now I’m going back to just having fun.”

Unofficial Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Mid-Ohio Qualifying Results:

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Best Lap Total Laps Team
1 27 Hunter McElrea 1:12.1926 1:12.1926 11 11 Andretti Autosport
2 26 Linus Lundqvist 1:12.4218 0.2292 14 14 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
3 24 Benjamin Pedersen 1:12.4459 0.2533 13 9 Global Racing Group with HMD
4 83 Matthew Brabham 1:12.4911 0.2985 8 5 Andretti Autosport
5 28 Christian Rasmussen 1:12.5129 0.3203 11 11 Andretti Autosport
6 2 Sting Ray Robb 1:12.6617 0.4691 10 6 Andretti Autosport
7 51 Jacob Abel 1:12.6683 0.4757 12 9 Abel Motorsports
8 11 Antonio Serravalle 1:12.7104 0.5178 11 10 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
9 68 Danial Frost 1:12.7685 0.5759 13 12 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
10 7 Christian Bogle 1:13.0939 0.9013 12 10 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
11 99 Ernie Francis Jr. 1:13.1110 0.9184 10 7 Force Indy
12 21 Kyffin Simpson 1:13.2365 1.0439 14 10 TJ Speed Motorsports
13 12 James Roe 1:13.8306 1.638 13 11 TJ Speed Motorsports