Power blasts to Pocono pole

Image by Michael Levitt/LAT

Power blasts to Pocono pole


Power blasts to Pocono pole


Will Power captured the pole position for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono International Raceway with a forceful run that featured two laps above 219mph – a mark no one else was able to approach. The 219.511mph average netted the Verizon Team Penske Chevy driver his 53rd career IndyCar pole, tying him for second all-time with A.J. Foyt.

“Very cool to be up there with A.J. Foyt, a legend like that,” Power said when told by NBC Sports’ Paul Tracy of the significance of his run. “I couldn’t have imagined that starting my career.

“Great to be starting at the front here,” added the Australian, who will be going for his third consecutive win at Pocono. “I get the feeling it will be a bit of a track position race.”

The challenging weather of early Saturday cleared out to partly cloudy conditions in time for qualifying, held just 90 minutes after the first practice session of the weekend, although the clouds closed in again late in the session. Zach Veach, fifth man out, maintained his strong practice form to grab the early advantage with a two-lap average of 217.587mph. That held up until Penske’s Simon Pagenaud began a streak of late chart-toppers that culminated in Power’s crushing run.

Josef Newgarden followed Power in the third Penske entry and while his two laps were enough to secure a team front row sweep, the No. 1’s  218.802mph average was no match for the No. 12’s.

“That’s what we had — I’m pretty happy with our run. I just think that was our speed,” shrugged Newgarden, who will start one place ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, his next target in championship points behind leader Scott Dixon.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s ace, though, was well off the pace this time. The final runner as rain loomed increasingly likely, Dixon held on through two wild laps to settle for 13th in his PNC Bank Honda.

“I don’t know what happened — it was easy flat in [Turn] 3, tons of grip, but in 1, the first lap it bottomed so hard, moved me up the track and upset the car quite a bit,” Dixon related. “I tried to anticipate that the second lap and pinched it down a bit early to try and avoid the bump and, just loads of understeer. Not sure how we missed it by that much but we’ll be OK – it’s a long race tomorrow.”

Graham Rahal was forced to hope along similar lines after an even worse run left him 18th on the 22-car grid.

“It’s my specialty – I just enjoy making it exciting for fans,” Rahal joked of starting from deep in the field once again, before adding some candid introspection about his showing relative to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Takuma Sato (10th).

“We’re just not good enough – Takuma’s a brave soul, and when the thing’s wiggling he’s gonna drive it; I’m probably not” he said. “But, 500 miles is a long way – we won Fontana from 19th. You can win 500-mile races from anywhere, so I’m fine with that. I’d just like, as a team, to consistently be better.”