A bit of theft within Team Penske took place Saturday afternoon at Road America when Will Power saw his pole position stolen by 0.0482s when Josef Newgarden eclipsed his time as the checkered flag waved.
Newgarden’s No. 1 Chevy was fastest on Friday, oddly adrift in 14th during the third practice session, and back to its series-leading pace when it mattered with a blinding lap of 1m43.2026s.
“We had the speed on Friday, so to have it today was really nice,” said the reigning series champion who scored his third pole of the year. “We have to still close this out tomorrow, hopefully. Our engine package has been phenomenal. You can see how well we work together at Team Penske and Team Chevy.”
Power has made an unfortunate habit of starting second, but in doing so, gave Penske and Chevy a lockout of the front row.
“That was close,” he said. “We were close the whole time and then I gave it everything I had that last lap. I’m happy with that, but when it’s five-hundredths, it’s like, come on.”
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay also did a bit of in-house eclipsing, pushing teammate Alexander Rossi from third down to fourth when he crossed the finish line.
“We were P2 this morning, so we were hoping to do one better,” he said. “We made the right setup changes as the day went on but came up a little short there.”
Rossi was appreciative of how far his team has taken the car since Friday.
“We were struggling to be in the top 10, so to be fourth is good,” he said. “It’s a testament to the depth of the series.”
Counter to Rossi, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens was visibly displeased to be no higher than fifth.
“Maybe we should have left it where it was,” he said. “I was happier with the car in third practice.”
Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais lacked grip and lamented the lack of a morning warmup session to search for setup solutions.
“We’ll see what we’ve got tomorrow,” he said. “We don’t have a warm-up tomorrow so it’s tough to go into the race in those circumstances.”
Trimming the Firestone Fast 12 down to six produced the biggest thrills of the day as the final lap of the session shuffled all 12 drivers in a matter of second. Andretti’s Zach Veach was the first across the timing line and shot to third. By the time his rivals completed their laps, the rookie found himself in 11th.
The big surprise was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who looked like a surefire member of the Fast Six, but a gamble — staying out longer on Firestone’s primary black tires to set a solid time — while his rivals stopped early to bolt on the faster alternative red rubber left the championship leader eighth at the end of the session.
“We couldn’t really get the space to work in,” he said of coming out of the pits on reds to find himself stuck in a pack of cars. “It’s nobody’s fault. We probably should have waved off a third lap on the blacks and got another lap on the reds. The car’s got good speed, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Another surprise came with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal coming up short in the Fast Six. Within the team, Sato was marginally faster than Rahal, and will start seventh to his teammate’s ninth.
Among those who missed out on making the Firestone Fast 12, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was down in 14th, SPM’s James Hinchcliffe was 15th, and both AJ Foyt Racing Chevys were out of the mix with Tony Kanaan in 18th and Matheus Leist in 20th.