Herta takes pole position at Honda Indy Toronto qualifying, Canadian DeFrancesco 12th

TORONTO — Devlin DeFrancesco has reached a new career high at his hometown IndyCar race.

The 22-year-old IndyCar rookie finished 12th in qualifying on Saturday and will have his highest-ever position on the starting grid for the Honda Indy Toronto.

DeFrancesco said he was thrilled to have the result on the Exhibition Place street track that was so formative for him as a young racing fan.

“This was actually my first IndyCar race that I came to when I was 12 years old,” said DeFrancesco. “I was standing right above the last corner, in the suites there, watching.

“To be here 10 years later and have my career best qualifying my first time out here is amazing.”

DeFrancesco finished in one minute 14.8882 seconds in the second elimination round. His brakes locked out, sending him into the overrun at Turn 1 through the arch of the Princes’ Gates.

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“I think it shows that we’re making progress. Slowly but surely, for sure,” said DeFrancesco of his strong qualifying time despite the setback. “Definitely have also a bit of a bittersweet feeling because I definitely think we had more.

“But we’ll come away with this and focus on moving forward for a good result for tomorrow.”

Colton Herta of the United States will have pole position for Sunday’s race after finish qualifying in 59.2698 seconds. Three-time Honda Indy champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand was second in 59.3592 and American Josef Newgarden was third in 59.5257.

“It couldn’t have been much better,” said Herta, who also had the best time in the second practice earlier Saturday. “We had a great race car in the morning time and kind of did a little bit to it to adjust it and ended up being very fast this afternoon.”

The 41-year-old Dixon is chasing a milestone, with his 51 career wins just one behind the legendary Mario Andretti for the second most in IndyCar history. A.J. Foyt is the all-time leader with 67.

“I was just trying to keep up with the track,” said Dixon, who shook Herta’s hand as he joined him at the news conference’s dais. “There’s always things that you can prove but congrats to Colton, it was a great lap.

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“I’m looking forward to starting close up the front and hopefully having a clean day.”

Fans watch the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday. Marc Cormier/Global News

Dalton Kellett of Stoufville, Ont., will be 23rd on the grid Sunday. He did not record a time in qualifying after his engine failed.

Kellett will start ahead of rookie teammate Kyle Kirkwood and Conor Daly, who were both penalized in the first elimination round.

Both Canadians are driving in the Honda Indy for the first time as the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DeFrancesco said that although it’s been a busy time seeing family and friends, meeting fans, and making media appearances, race week has been “amazing.”

“It really was amazing to get a good result for us,” said DeFrancesco, who thanked everyone who had supported him. “It’s honestly just taking it all in and looking forward to having a clean solid day tomorrow and some good points.”

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France’s Simon Pagenaud is the reigning champion, having won the IndyCar race when it was last held in 2019.

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