Saturday, March 19, 2022

Rosenqvist Takes the Pole at Texas

Last year, Felix Rosenqvist was the forgotten man at Arrow McLaren SP.

While teammate Pato O'Ward's star continued to climb, Rosenqvist dealt with a lot of adversity in 2021, which resulted in a 21st-place finish in the season points. The 2022 season didn't get off to a good start, either, as the 30-year-old from Sweden started 21st and finished 17th at the St. Pete opener.

Rosenqvist was able to right the ship Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, and in a big way as he captured the pole for Sunday's Xpel 375. After posting the second-best time in the morning free practice, Rosenqvist moved up one spot on the timing chart thanks to a two-lap average of 221.110 mph in a highly competitive qualifying session.

Rosenqvist posted the quickest time early on in qualifying, then had to stand around and wait as several drivers took their shot. In the end, he took P1 by just .003 seconds over St. Pete winner Scott McLaughlin and .0034 over Takuma Sato.

Will Power, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves round out the first three rows.

"It was two really good laps," Rosenqvist said. "I kind of felt already this morning, to be honest, that the car was in the window. There weren't many balance changes needed (after the morning session), and it was the same thing during the qualifying laps. It was just kind of like in the zone where you wanted it.

"The first lap was a bit loose, and the second lap was a bit under-steered, but you're never going to get it right. I think for the whole Arrow McLaren SP Team and the 7 Car in general, it couldn't have been better timing to get this pole. It's a good boost mentally for all the guys and girls working on the car, and I think everyone just showed today that we refocused and came back. A little bit of a disappointment in St. Pete and, obviously, last year, but coming back here just fully focused and doing our own thing and putting the car on pole is really amazing."

McLaughlin, who won the pole at St. Pete en route to winning his first career IndyCar race, brought along the confidence from that win, not to mention his season-best run at Texas last year, where he finished second.

"I certainly felt I had a little bit of scrub off turn one and two on that last lap, and that potentially -- it may have cost me a little bit, scrubbed a little bit of speed there," he said. "I knew it, so on three and four I was like, oh, I'm making a little bit of a weight jack adjustment and bars, but then I looked at the score and I was, like, 209.9 at the end. That might not be enough, and then sure enough they said P2."

Last year's series Rookie of the Year looks to make the jump to being a championship contender this year, and says that being consistent is the key. Start up front, race up front.

"I said to you guys at St. Pete that a top seven every race is really our goal," he said. "I think it's going to be good for our points and everything like that, but knowing that we had a great car coming here, I knew that we could keep that momentum. The points are tomorrow, so we have to make sure we have a clean race and be solid. I feel like we've got a race car that can compete for the race tomorrow."

Jimmie Johnson, making his first IndyCar oval start, will roll off in the 18th position after notching a two-lap average of 219.856 mph. He was just .3 seconds off of the pole speed -- the entire field is separated by just .6 seconds -- and out-qualfied oval veterans like Jack Harvey, Ed Carpenter, J.R. Hildebrand and Graham Rahal.

A total of 27 cars will make up the grid Sunday for a race scheduled to be 248 laps. The green flag flies at about 11:45 a.m. CDT.

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