Race Weekend Central

Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Palou Take Poles for $1 Million Challenge Heat Races

In a very rapid set of qualifying sessions, Felix Rosenqvist and defending champion Alex Palou laid down the fastest laps to put their cars on pole for their respective heat races for tomorrow’s (March24) NTT IndyCar Series $1 Million Challenge at Thermal Club.

Each session was only eight minutes long, shortened by IndyCar the day before, and tire degradation impacted runs quickly, so drivers mostly had one lap to ensure a quality run. Push-to-pass was provided to the field, giving drivers an additional tool to use to lay down faster laps. 

“Super proud of the No. 10 car and [Chip Ganassi Racing],” Palou said. “Amazing! Looking forward to tomorrow, and it’s the best starting position. Happy that after all that confusion, the red flag and everything, we didn’t know if were going to be able to put a lap together.”

With the unique format for this cash-prize race, there were two separate sessions run, with the driver fastest in each earning the pole for that specific group’s heat that will determine the 12-cars to make the finale. 

Rosenqvist, who qualified second at the first race at St. Petersburg, continued showing a strong level of comfort with his new ride at Meyer Shank Racing. Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin will start on the outside of the front row for the first heat race. Danish driver Christian Lundgaard was near the top of each open test session over the last two days, but was only able to muster the fourth fastest time in group one.

Session two was going smooth until Marcus Ericsson crashed at the same turn his teammate Kyle Kirkwood did earlier in the day. The ensuing red flag condition, by rule, froze the clock with 1:19 left. This gave teams the chance to run one hot lap, which some did. Callum Ilott who is filling in for injured David Malukas at Arrow McLaren Racing, held the provisional pole up to the red flag. However, Palou was able to get enough out of his tires to put up the fastest time. Teammate Marcus Armstrong will start next to him for Heat 2.

See also
2024 IndyCar $1 Million Challenge Preview

Graham Rahal made a surprising jump to third after having nothing positive to say about his car’s balance prior to the red flag. The team found something though during the short respite, and he was able to improve from the tail end of the group to the second row.

A random draw split the field into the two groups. The first session, consisting of 14 cars, had no incidents. Only Ericsson’s crash affected the 13-car second session.

The qualifying speeds will also play a factor after the heat races are run tomorrow. The heat winner with the fastest time will start on pole for the final event.

Since the race is an exhibition, no points were given for winning the pole. 

2024 $1 Million Challenge Qualifying Results for Heat 1 and Heat 2

The first of two heats will start tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC. After the heats are complete, the field will be set for the grand finale and the race for the $500,000 prize in the 2024 $1 Million Challenge.

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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