Saturday, September 24, 2022

Colton Herta sets track record for pole winning at Long Beach

Jimmy Johnson prepares for practice at the Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9, 2022 in Long Beach, California.  Johnson fractured his hand in an accident on Friday and was fitted with a carbon fiber splint he tested in Saturday's practice.  (AP Photo/Jenna Fryer)

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Jimmy Johnson prepares for practice at the Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9, 2022 in Long Beach, California. Johnson fractured his hand in an accident on Friday and was fitted with a carbon fiber splint he tested in Saturday’s practice. ( Associated Press Photo/Jenna Fryer)

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Jimmy Johnson prepares for practice at the Grand Prix on Saturday, April 9, 2022 in Long Beach, California. Johnson fractured his hand in an accident on Friday and was fitted with a carbon fiber splint he tested in Saturday’s practice. ( Associated Press Photo/Jenna Fryer)

LONG BEACH, Calif. ( Associated Press) — Colton Herta broke a Long Beach track record in qualifying on Saturday, and the California native will start from pole for his home IndyCar race.

Herta turned a lap in 1 minute, 05.3095 seconds on the temporary roadway set up through downtown Long Beach to earn her eighth career pole and the right to green the field on Sunday. The previous track record was 1:06.2254, set by Helio Castroneves in 2017.

Herta, who hails from nearby Valencia, is the defending race winner and is hoping to give Andretti Autosport a fourth consecutive victory in the most prestigious street course race in the United States.

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“As a young kid, I always trained to be an IndyCar driver and it is because of this race,” said Herta.

Herta had a fast season for Andretti, which saw him advance to 2018 and 2019 winners Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean in the final qualifying round. But while Grosjean was chasing Herta for pole, the former Formula One driver hit a tire barrier, bringing the session to an abrupt halt.

Herta celebrated as he went back to the pit alley as he thought the session was over. Instead, IndyCar said the clock had 2 seconds left and would allow drivers to return to the track for one final qualifying lap. Felix Rosenquist and Rossi were the only two in the fast six to make another lap and neither advanced.

Grosjean, who was second fastest before crashing, was docked on his fastest lap and dropped to sixth on the starting grid. This moved Team Penske’s Joseph Newgarden, the winner of Texas in IndyCar’s last outing, to second.

IndyCar champion Alex Palu finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing, followed by Rosenquist of Arrow McLaren SP, Rossi and Grosjean.

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“Man, Andretti cars look really cool. Not just Huerta,” Newgarden said. “They’ll be hard to beat.”

Jimmy Johnson, who broke his right arm in an accident during practice on Friday, Saturday wore a carbon fiber splint and was 25th in the 26-car field. He also crashed in Saturday’s practice and his fastest two laps in qualifying were docked to prevent Graham Rahal as they merged on the racing surface.

“I’m in damage control with my hands,” Johnson said. “I need to work my way forward if I can, and I’m sure some crunch will come into play. Hoping to hold my hand and get me into the race, I can log laps. I need some points, I am 10th in the championship right now and I would love to score as many points as possible so that I can stay in as many points as possible.”

Jack Harvey, who had been injured in an accident in Texas that caused him to miss that race, returned to the competition at Long Beach and finished 21st.

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More Associated Press Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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