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O’Ward Wins INDYCAR Pole, Cindric Leads Xfinity Practice on Frenetic Friday

It was a jam-packed opening day to Brickyard Weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, with both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NTT INDYCAR SERIES on the IMS road course.

The day was headlined by NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice and NTT P1 Award qualifying to set the field for Saturday’s Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

In an exciting last-second run and by the narrowest of margins, Pato O’Ward scored his third NTT P1 Award for pole position this season and will lead the field to green in tomorrow’s race. His best lap time of 1 minute, 10.7147 seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet came in the closing seconds of the Firestone Fast 12 and knocked Will Power off the top spot by .0067 of a second.

“I was surprised when I heard P1,” O’Ward said. “I came in and I saw the Pylon, my number didn’t get bumped down. I think I nailed it, honestly. I thought it was a very put together, very calm lap. There’s definitely been a lot crazier laps in my life.”

Four-time IMS road course winner Power was second at 1:10.7214 in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, and the polesitter for May’s GMR Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean, was third at 1:10.7418 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda. Christian Lundgaard, in his debut NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, qualified fourth at 1:10.7433 in the No. 45 Mi-Jack Honda, and Colton Herta was fifth at 1:10.7631 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

Series leader Alex Palou qualified sixth at 1:10.8290 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The early evening qualifying session threw NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes a curveball. Group 1 of the first round of qualifying was run in the heat of the bright sun.

When Group 2 took over, cloud cover cooled the track, but it still proved to be challenging for even the best athletes. As time expired in the session, six-time and defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon spun exiting Turn 10. He lost his quickest lap of the session for causing a local yellow that affected another competitor. He starts 26th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Between INDYCAR practice and qualifying, the NASCAR Xfinity Series field took to the IMS road course for the one and only practice session of the weekend in preparation for Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard (4 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN).

Team Penske driver Austin Cindric, the defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, put together the best lap time of the session in the No. 22 PPG Ford at 1:32.276.

“It obviously tells us we have speed,” Cindric said. “But we have 150 miles in the Pennzoil 150 to get through, so hopefully we can have the same speed tomorrow in the PPG Ford Mustang. If I’ve learned one thing racing in NASCAR, it’s that practice doesn’t matter in the slightest, but the guys have worked hard, and I’m glad to show it.”

JR Motorsports rookie Sam Mayer followed in second at 1:32.459 in the No. 8 Chevrolet, while Winamac, Indiana, native Justin Haley was third at 1:32.601 in the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick, the winner of the last two Brickyard 400s, was fourth fastest in the No. 99 Unibet Official Sportsbook Chevrolet at 1:32.689, and AJ Allmendinger, who finished seventh in the 2013 Indianapolis 500, was fifth in the No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet at 1:32.709.

Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge veteran Sage Karam impressed in the first practice session of his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut. He posted the 12th-fastest lap time of the session at 1:33.281.

If race fans thought Friday was an action-packed day of racing, they’re in store for even more thrills Saturday at the Racing Capital of the World. It all starts at 8:45 a.m. (ET) with INDYCAR warmup before NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying at 10 a.m. ET.

The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series will take on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course at 11 a.m. for the first time ever with the only practice session for Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.

Then, the action heats up with the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at 4 p.m. ET. Tickets are still available at IMS.com or by walking up at the gates.

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