Will Power’s climb to stand level with Mario Andretti with the most pole positions in IndyCar history was 16 years in the making, going back to the 2006 Gold Coast Champ Car race when he put the Walker Racing Lola at the front of the grid for his home event. But the time to celebrate his place in history will have to wait another few weeks.
“I’m not feeling any relief [at equaling Andretti] because I’m so focused on the race and the championship,” he said. “I can think about that later and feel good about it. Right now, it’s just so important to have a good car in the race and race well; have a solid day.”
Power tied Andretti in the history books courtesy of a superb qualifying performance in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet at World Wide Technology Raceway on Friday afternoon. While his reputation as one of IndyCar’s best qualifiers is long-established, he said that it was only in the last couple of years that Andretti’s record began to feel like an achievable target.
“It’s something I’ve had my eye on for a while,” he said. “I think when I got to 60 [ED: at Mid-Ohio in 2020], I was like, ‘This could be possible’. It’s definitely a big box to tick.”
A relatively lean 2021 in which Power added just one pole to his tally (coincidentally, also at WWTR) has been followed by a return to more familiar form in 2022, where this weekend’s P1 follows a pole at the Indy GP in May, and pole for both races at Iowa.
“When I got the double-pole at Iowa, that’s when it became really realistic,” he said. “The year before, I had one pole. I think the year before that I had three. [ED: He had five in 2020]. It was getting increasingly harder to get pole position. I was kind of thinking, ‘This is going to be pretty hard to beat.’ But the double-pole at Iowa was real key. Great team, great engine, great crew. That’s what I’ve had. I’ve been lucky.”
The next two races bring the chance for Power to move clear of Andretti and claim the all-time record for himself. From his standpoint as the driver coming into this weekend at the top of the championship standings, the approach to the season’s two remaining qualifying sessions is more pragmatic.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he can add to his pole tally this year. “The next two qualifying sessions have to be very good qualifying sessions. That totally is going to be the goal. But I’m not even thinking about that right now; focusing forward on the race. That’s really the big thing on my mind, is having a good day.
“It’s pretty typical of IndyCar, right? It’s just going to go down to the last race. The way I see it, even on points right now, it’s that close, it can just flip. It’s going to be about who can finish ahead of who. Simple as that.”