INDIANAPOLIS -- Three months after he left Indianapolis 500 qualifying in tears, Graham Rahal savored every precious moment of earning the No. 1 starting spot for the Indianapolis Grand Prix on Friday.
The Ohioan ended a six-year pole drought by outdueling teammate Christian Lundgaard.
Rahal completed his final qualifying lap on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course in 1 minute, 10.1102 seconds. Lundgaard was second in 1:10.2208 while 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren qualified third in 1:10.2932.
Rahal pumped his fists and traded fist bumps -- a stark contrast to the seemingly inconsolable scene after teammate Jack Harvey knocked him off the 500 starting grid earlier this season. Rahal eventually started the race, replacing the injured Stefan Wilson in a different car.
"You move on it from it as best you can," Rahal said. "There's a lot of frequent reminders of what happened not only in qualifying but the car not starting the race and things like that. When I got back home after May, the very first voice mail I had was form Al Unser Jr. You see somebody like him, who -- he's won here, been here -- but he's also seen the lowest of lows. And seeing his name on my phone lifted my spirits."
The pole is the first for Rahal since June 2017, when he dominated the weekend in Detroit by winning both races. That was also the last time Rahal drove into Victory Lane.
With Harvey starting eighth, Lundgaard thinks Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing could be celebrating again Saturday.
"I just got out-qualified by Graham, technically everyone did," Lundgaard said. "I think there was some small mistakes I could have prevented to jump ahead. But I think we've put ourselves in a good position."
There was plenty of intrigue even before Rahal's final run.
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden both failed to advance out of the first round. Newgarden, a two-time series champ, enters the weekend second in points -- 84 behind leader Alex Palou.
But the chasers caught a break when Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champ, was eliminated in the second round. The Spaniard will start ninth.
The two strongest teams in the series, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, were shut out of the final round.