Will Power was in a league all his own Saturday, earning the Iowa Corn 300 pole for the second year in a row and third time overall after a two-lap average of 182.391mph.
While the pole speed wasn’t close to last year’s 185.210mph, it was still more than 1.2 seconds better than Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who will start alongside Power on the front row.
“I love this place,” said Power, who will try to become the first driver to win the Iowa race from the pole. “It’s a real tough little bullring oval and man, I’ve been trying to win this for so long, so obviously starting the race in a good spot. I think it’ll be a very difficult race, tires degrade, but it’ll make for great racing.
Having crossed the Indy 500 off his bucket list, he also said a win here would be special.
“It would be a big year for me if I win the Indianapolis 500 and Iowa this year. That would be, if I was looking at things I wanted to do, that would almost top the list.”
Newgarden, who averaged 181.160mph, will attempt his second oval win of the season, having won at ISM Raceway before picking up road course wins at Barber and Road America.
“The Hitachi car right off the truck’s been fast,” he said. “It certainly helps to test, we were able to do that about a week and a half ago. Really happy we all came here together, got an idea of this racecar, but Will did two great laps. You gotta be perfect; we weren’t perfect, but we were pretty good, and that’s how you get on the front row, but to get the pole you’ve got to put it all together. We probably missed it slightly but still a great effort from our guys.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the only active driver to win Iowa more than once (2012, 2014 and 2015), will roll off third in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda, four spots better than his previous best here.
“Just missed it a little bit,” he admitted. “Good job by the team, that car was decent. I just got a little bit light overall. I couldn’t commit to full throttle leaving the corner, just a bit too much understeer. It’s unfortunate, but tomorrow’s where all the points are paid.”
Simon Pagenaud will start fourth, followed by a slew of Hondas: Alexander Rossi in fifth, Scott Dixon sixth, rookie Robert Wickens seventh and Ed Jones in eighth. Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato round out the top 10.
AJ Foyt Racing rookie Matheus Leist, whose ABC Supply Chevy suffered suspension damage when he crashed early in practice, qualified 22nd.
Several drivers admitted that they were caught off-guard by the track changes from the first practice to qualifying, including Sebastien Bourdais, who qualified his Dale Coyne Racing Honda 15th.
“Pushed loose, a bit of everything, just on top of the racetrack,” he said. “The guys did the best they could with that hour of practice, but not being able to do the test with the Firestone folks a few weeks back really hurt us and it’s a shame. We usually find solution but not in one hour like that.
“[In final practice we’ll] keep trying to get the car closer, get a read on where you’re gonna be on long runs, because that’s all that matters from here on out. But a disappointing run for the SealMaster Honda because it dictates where we’re going to be on pit lane in Toronto, and that’s not going to be pretty. A real shame, wish I could have done better for the guys.
Graham Rahal, who will start 12th, said “I just had a ridiculous amount of understeer.
“Super, super bad understeer,” he continued. “The tools were fully adjusted in the car, there’s not much else you can do, just try to adjust the line a little bit and not used the tires so much on the exit. We’ll keep working on it and be better tomorrow.”