Newgarden makes his point in St. Louis qualifying

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In a season where every championship point figures to matter in determining the winner, Team Penske's Josef Newgarden was pleased to add another point in P1 Award qualifying Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Newgarden earned the IndyCar Series point by winning the pole for Saturday night's Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta & Valvoline. Although INDYCAR doesn't officially award qualifying points until the conclusion of the event, Newgarden effectively has a 36-point lead over Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi in pursuit of his second series championship. Rossi will start 11th in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.

Newgarden won the Gateway race in 2017 on his way to his first season title. He hopes to convert another strong performance Saturday night in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.

"We've only gone through half the journey this weekend," Newgarden said of the race to come. "We need to go through the race simulation and then see where we really end up. But I feel pretty confident that the PPG car is going to be strong and Chevy has obviously done (its) homework and given us a great package."

Newgarden posted a two-lap run around the 1.25-mile, D-shaped speedway at 48.2554 seconds, an average of 186.508 miles per hour. That gave him his second pole of the season - the first came in the second race in Detroit on June 2 - and gave him eight for his INDYCAR career.

Newgarden's effort as the final qualifier denied Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan his 35th career pole. The four-time Indy car champion will start on the front row for the first time this season and helps take the sting out of crashing on the opening lap of last year's race here.

Bourdais' qualifying average was 185.927 mph (48.4062 seconds) in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. He thought it might be good enough for the pole, but then rookie teammate Santino Ferrucci approached him.

"He just told me before (Newgarden ran) 'That pole will be yours,'" Bourdais said. "I told him, 'Man, you just jinxed it.'"

Team Penske took three of the top four qualifying positions, with last week's race winner at Pocono Raceway - Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet - qualifying third at 185.896 mph (48.4142 seconds) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) fourth at 185.143 mph (48.6110 seconds). Power won last year's race here.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato was fifth (185.050 mph, 48.6356 seconds) in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda.

Pagenaud, who is third in the standings with three races to go, now has a 41-point deficit to Newgarden. Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who qualified eighth (184.293 mph, 48.8354 seconds), trails by 53 points.

Qualifying Results: 

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 186.508 mph

2. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 185.927

3. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 185.896

4. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 185.143

5. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 185.050

6. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 184.830

7. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 184.452

8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 184.293

9. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 184.206

10. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 184.130

11. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 184.070

12. (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 183.399

13. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 183.211

14. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 183.180

15. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 182.547

16. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 182.065

17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 181.334

18. (59) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 179.399

19. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 178.982

20. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 178.974

21. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 178.290

22. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 175.192