Team Penske’s Will Power will start from pole for Sunday’s 50-lap Kohler Grand Prix with a strong contingent of Chevys in tow. The Australian’s No. 12 Chevy (1m42.2105s) edged Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (1m42.3758s), Ganassi’s Tony Kanaan (1m42.7279s), Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (1m42.8573s) and Penske’s Helio Castroneves (1m42.9449s) in a Bowtie 1-5. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal was the top Honda representative in sixth (1m43.7782s).
“It was a session of just all traffic,” Power said of earning his 44th career Indy car pole, the 242nd for Team Penske in Indy car, and Penske’s 499th overall pole in all forms of racing. “Took a risk in the second round on used tires and that made the difference. It’s been a rough start of the year, and we’re firing on all cylinders right now, man. I had to really lay it out.”
Power’s choice to try and get through on used tires to save a fresh set of Firestone Reds for the final round gave him an advantage of 0.1654 seconds over Dixon, but the New Zealander reckoned the pole was gifted to the Penske driver.
“[I] made too many mistakes,” he said. “Had the car for pole, I messed up the last two corners here which cost us the pole. I lost two or three tenths in Turn 12.”
Rahal’s run to sixth came on the slower Firestone Blacks while the rest of the top six ran the faster Reds.
“That was the best I was going to squeeze out of the car,” Rahal said.
A few drivers had strong runs that fell just shy of cracking the Firestone Fast Six, but were impressive nonetheless.
“It’s just frustrating,” Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton said of seeting the seventh-fastest lap in the No. 8 Chevy. “They’ve given me a great car to do the job, but [Will] Power came out of the pits in front of me, which isn’t optimal, and I just had to keep lifting, lifting, lifting.”
Hailing an eighth-place start for Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay wouldn’t happen under normal circumstances, but with the 2012 IndyCar Series champion suffering from a flu, fighting the track and his physical state made life much harder than usual.
“Fever, shakes, sweats, all that stuff,” Hunter-Reay said after climbing from his No. 28 Honda. “The car was really good. We can definitely work from here, especially with such long straights. I feel like absolute junk, but [Josef] Newgarden has plates in his shoulder so there’s no need to talk with me.
Hunter-Reay was followed by Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly, whose ninth-place car is best story of the day.
“This is our best qualifying result of the year,” said the driver of the No. 18 Honda. “We’re doing our job.”
KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais did a marvelous job to hold his No. 11 Chevy in a straight line while earning 12th.
“The car’s really good, but the car is pulling right and locking the left front, which is interesting,” he said. “These brakes have been a massive pain in the butt and it’s not getting any better.”
Outside the Fast 12, 14th-place Juan Montoya, the only Penske driver to miss the Fast Six, vented his frustration at 16th-place alexander Rossi, who he accused of balking the No. 2 Chevy. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was the top car from the ECR Chevy stable, but that was aided by teammate Josef Newgarden, who spun and dropped to 20th.