Alex Palou started his defense of his 2023 Sonsio Grand Prix victory in the best way possible Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the pole for this year’s race.

Two-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou earned his fourth career NTT P1 Award and his first since the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear last June. His best lap today in the Firestone Fast Six was 1 minute, 9.0004 seconds in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The pole on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course came after Palou ended up 17th and 11th, respectively, in the two practice sessions today that preceded qualifying.

“It’s been a tough day, honestly,” Palou said. “Practice 1 and Practice 2 wasn’t amazing. Even the start of qualifying, too. So, really happy to be there. Didn’t expect it. I’ll take it.

“It was my mom’s birthday today, so it’s probably a good birthday present.”

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup session starts at 11:15 a.m., with live coverage on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Christian Lundgaard qualified second at 1:09:0921 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. This was his third consecutive front-row start on the IMS road course, as he won the pole for this event last May and started second in the Gallagher Grand Prix last August.

Two-time series champion Will Power will start third after his top qualifying lap of 1:09.1636 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Josef Newgarden will join Power in the second row of the starting grid after qualifying fourth at 1:09.2528 in the No. 2 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet.

The strong performances for Power and Newgarden came despite working this month without their respective strategists and key engineers. Team president and Newgarden strategist Tim Cindric, Power strategist Ron Ruzewski, Newgarden engineer Luke Mason and Power data engineer Robbie Atkinson were suspended by Team Penske for this event and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge for their roles in the Push to Pass technical infractions found on the cars driven by Power, Newgarden and teammate Scott McLaughlin.

Pato O’Ward will start fifth after his best lap of 1:09.3320 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:09.5270 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi qualified a season-best seventh at 1:09.0801 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet after missing the Firestone Fast Six by .0185 of a second. Rossi’s previous best start this season was 13th at Long Beach.

Series points leader Colton Herta faces a long climb in the race Saturday after qualifying a season-low 24th in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian. Herta’s car ran out of fuel on his final flying lap during the first round of qualifying. He led the first practice this morning.

This is Herta’s lowest qualifying position since he also started 24th for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear last June.

IndyCar Series PR