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Colton Herta wins the pole at Detroit Grand Prix ahead of Alex Palou and Josef Newgarden

DETROIT (AP) — Colton Herta won the 12th pole of his IndyCar career on Saturday at the Detroit Grand Prix, finishing ahead of defending champion Alex Palou and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden.

Herta finished only third in his first-round qualifying group, but he topped the Fast 12 and Fast Six rounds at the 1.6-mile track that winds around the Renaissance Center on downtown streets.

“This is a complete 180 from last weekend,” said Herta, who crashed in Indianapolis. “You never have a worse feeling in your life inside a race car than going from Indy to this place. You are used to the smoothness and the speed and then you get here and it is a completely different racecourse."

Herta finished with a time of 1:00.5475 in the Andretti Global No. 26, a gap of 0.15 over Palou and 0.54 over Newgarden.

Palou won last year in the first race on the streets of Detroit after years of racing on nearby Belle Isle.

“This car has been awesome since Practice 1,” said Palou, who leads the championship standings. “It's going to be a tough race, but it is a lot easier with a fast car.”

Kyle Kirkwood spun with 43 seconds left in the Fast Six, sending the other five cars into the pits before an extra timed lap. However, none of the drivers could get enough heat in the tires to challenge.

“I knew it was going to be tough to beat Colton,” Kirkwood said of his Andretti teammate. “I probably should have settled for a strong second, but you never think that way when you are out there.”

Herta topped the Fast 12 round with a 1.00.2304 lap, 0.16 ahead of Kirkwood. Scott Dixon was third, advancing to his 100th career Fast Six.

O'Ward, who finished second in the Indy 500 after Newgarden's last-lap pass, caused a red flag after stalling midway through the session, dropping him to 12th.

“Kirkwood was coming up behind me and I wanted to give him some room,” O'Ward said. “Unfortunately, these cars don't have rear-wheel steering, so I got the radius wrong and then stalled it.”

Palou had the fastest times in Friday's and Saturday's practice sessions and kept that going in the first round of qualifying, He led the second group in 1:00.3478, ahead of Christian Lundgaard, Herta, Marcus Ericsson and Pato O'Ward.

Dixon finished sixth in the group, good enough to advance to the Fast 12.

Theo Pourchaire, who crashed in morning practice, topped the first group in Round 1 with a 1:00.7000 ahead of Scott McLaughlin, Newgarden, Kirkwood and Power. Santino Ferrucci took the sixth Fast 12 spot from Christian Rasmussen and Romain Grosjean.

Four-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves — a surprise replacement for Tom Blomqvist in the No. 66 — qualified last in 26th place.

GROUCHY MORNING

Herta and Kirkwood both had run-ins with Ferrucci during the morning practice.

Kirkwood and Ferrucci exchanged angry words in the pits after making contact, with the Foyt driver shoving Kirkwood. Ferrucci criticized the Andretti drivers in an interview after the practice session, but he apologized after qualifying.

Herta wasn't impressed.

“I don't have a problem with anyone at Foyt, other than one person,” he said at his pole-winning news conference. “Everyone there is lovely, except for one person.”

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing