Will Power isn’t used to qualifying slumps. Number two all-time in IndyCar poles, the Team Penske driver had qualified 15th and 16th the last two races, and had never in his career had he qualified below P15 in three straight races — until now. After leading his first qualifying group on speed, Power was docked his two fastest laps by INDYCAR for impeding Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and will roll off 21st for Sunday’s Honda 200.
.@12WillPower does not advance to Round 2 of qualifying after being penalized for this incident with @h3lio. #INDYCAR // #HONDA200 pic.twitter.com/SFm0aDupnB
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) July 2, 2022
“It’s totally on us,” Power admitted to NBC Sports. “I talked before the session, said, ‘I’ve got to know when somebody’s on a lap, when I’m on my out-lap — we can’t get one of these penalties.’ And we got one of those penalties. So, that’s just given away a chance at a top-six I feel like, maybe a pole.”
As to his chances of recovering from the resulting lowly P21 starting spot, Power was dubious. “As you know, in the series anything can happen but you’re not going to get that lucky — you can’t start that far back that many times. You’re not going to win, put it that way. On weekends when we’ve got a car that can win, we cannot be doing this. It’s on us — we weren’t on top of that one and got a penalty, that’s the rules.
Castroneves also failed to make it out of Group 1, leaving the driver of the No. 06 Honda consigned to a 15th-place starting spot.
“Obviously it’s a tough situation,” mulled the Brazilian of his run-in with his former teammate. “I saw Will, thought he saw me and then he started weaving right in front of me. But I’m still thinking OK, he’s just warming his tires, taking it easy, so I’m going to pass — and he literally chopped me off. I was like ‘whoa!’
“Unfortunately because of the design of the track, everyone is slowing down (to get separation), I understand that,” Castroneves added, “but I was trying to say you didn’t need that to stay in the top six. But the rules are the rules, right? You have to look in the mirror.”