PORTLAND, Ore. – Graham Rahal earned two poles in an INDYCAR SERIES season for the first time in 14 years, and he also gave the rest of the field something to think about entering the BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday.
Rahal turned a top lap of 58.3195 seconds in the No. 15 PeopleReady Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to add an NTT P1 Award to the one he won last month for the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. And unlike the other five drivers in the Firestone Fast Six, Rahal turned his best lap on Firestone primary tires, which are supposed to be slower but more durable than the Firestone alternate red-sidewall tires.
SEE: Qualifying Results
“Yesterday, we really struggled on the red tires,” Rahal said. “This morning we saved a set of blacks (primary tires) compared to everyone else, and it just worked out to be able to go to the new blacks (in qualifying). Everybody has pushed real hard to get our team back to this point, and it’s nice to have two poles here at the end of the year.”
This was the fifth career pole of Rahal’s INDYCAR SERIES career. His first two came in 2009, on the streets of St. Petersburg and at Kansas Speedway. Rahal was 18th of 27 drivers in practice Friday and improved to fourth in practice Saturday morning, avoiding running on a set of primary tires that ended up being his secret weapon in the Firestone Fast Six.
Reigning race winner Scott McLaughlin qualified second at 58.3525 in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet. He won this race from the pole last year, leading 104 of 110 laps.
“We have a great car,” McLaughlin said. “It was the same car we ran last year, so hopefully we’ll be OK.”
Live coverage of this year’s 110-lap race starts at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Colton Herta qualified third at 58.4576 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. Rahal’s speed on primary tires led Herta to mull over strategy for the race Sunday on the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course. Each team has six sets of Firestone primary tires and four sets of alternate tires for use during an event weekend, and all drivers must run the primary and alternate tires during the race.
“That’s one set that he’s taken off the table for the race tomorrow, too,” Herta said of Rahal’s decision to use primary tires in the Firestone Fast Six….