The NTT IndyCar Series’ polemaster struck again on the final lap of qualifying as Team Penske’s Will Power knocked Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi from the top spot as the Circuit of The Americas clock wound to zero.
Power’s No. 12 Chevy was a blur of oversteering speed throughout the 3.4-mile, 20-turn road course. The Australian’s second consecutive pole to start the 2019 season (1m46.0177s) edged Rossi’s No. 27 Honda by the smallest of margins (1m46.1761s).
“I thought our only chance for the pole was one lap of fuel and do a lap and then next day, one lap of fuel and do a lap and see what we got,” Power said. “That last lap was very neat and I finally breathed by the time I got to the start/finish line. It was a super job by the Verizon guys and Chevy with the engine to be P1, the only Chevy in the Fast Six, so a great job by the whole team.”
“I’d like to say I’m satisfied for second, but I know we had the speed for the pole position,” said Rossi. “We only went out for one lap in the Fast Six and I think the the thing that is bothersome is it was a good lap. Power just put together what he needed to secure pole — which is why he has almost 60 poles; he’s good at that.
“I missed it a bit into the final corner to open the lap. I knew I was in an uphill battle from there. A front row start is good — it’s a big turnaround for us from St. Pete where we weren’t really that competitive; we were just floating around in fifth and sixth. To be challenging for the pole this weekend is great and a testament to Andretti Autosport and everything the NAPA Auto Parts team has done.”
Like Power, Rossi’s teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay made a last-second push to take third in the No. 28 Honda (1m46.3228s), which came at the expense of rookie phenoms Colton Herta in the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Honda (1m46.3594s) and Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Honda of Felix Rosenqvist, who set the fastest overall lap in qualifying during the Firestone Fast 12 session (1m45.4542s), but fell to fifth in the Fast Six (1m46.5680s).
“Today was awesome,” the 18-year-old Herta said. “After Practice 3, we all had a feeling that we could go for the pole today because the No. 88 Latitude Vacation Club car was so fast. I’m just so happy the Harding Steinbrenner Racing boys were able to get the car ready yesterday for warm-up (following an engine change). I have to thank everyone on the team and Honda for working so hard this weekend.”
Although Rosenqvist was disappointed to miss out on pole position, he managed to outqualify his veteran teammate Scott Dixon for the second race in a row. Dixon, in the No. 9 Honda, completed the Fast Six (1m46.9375).
Among the surprises on a blustery and overcast afternoon in Austin, rookie Patricio O’Ward made another statement by leading the swift Carlin Racing team in eighth (1m46.3807s). Carlin veteran Max Chilton was 13th (1m46.8253s). The same rookie-veteran dynamic played out at Dale Coyne Racing where Santino Ferrucci made it into the Fast 12 and ultimately qualified 11th, while Sebastien Bourdais struggled with car balance and settled for a frustrating 17th.
In a positive nod for the home state team, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist will start 12th for the Chevy-powered team.