Will Power cemented his 67th career IndyCar pole position to draw level with Mario Andretti at the top of the all-time list with a superb run during qualifying at World Wide Technology Raceway on Friday afternoon.
Power, who was also fastest in practice earlier in the day, opened his account with a 182.336mph lap and backed it up with an extraordinary 183.089mph the second time around to earn a two-lap average of 182.727mph.
“Amazing,” said Power. “Amazing. I would never have been able to do this without Verizon and Penske. I’ve had such a fantastic career and they’ve given me such a great career, and I can’t thank them enough. Chevy too, because a lot of those poles were with a Chevy engine.”
His moment of history came at the expense of Marcus Ericsson, who also had a stellar two-lap run to make a provisional claim to the top spot with a 182.070mph average in the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and only two cars still to come. Worryingly for him, those cars belonged to Scott Dixon and Power, and while he was able to see off his teammate’s challenge, Power’s laps were a bridge too far.
“I’m very proud,” he said. “The race car was really good. We had a good practice and then we built on that. It’s the best qualifying of my IndyCar career so I’m proud of that. When you’re so close to your first pole you really want it, but we’ll try to get them tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden was also left to rue what might have been after a small error on his first flying lap. A 182.520mph on the second time around was a better illustration of the car’s potential, but he had to settle for third on the grid with 181.629mph.
“If I could have done a better first lap, for sure [I could have gotten pole],” he said. “The car was really capable. I wish I could have a re-do but you can’t. We had a great car; the speed was there. We just need to put it to the best use tomorrow.”
Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin rattled off a stout 181.046mph to complete the second row, leaving Ganassi to also line up in pairs immediately behind them with Alex Palou and Scott Dixon fifth- and sixth-fastest respectively.
Arrow McLaren SP’s hopes for similar multi-car representation up front were derailed early when Felix Rosenqvist lost the No.7 Chevy in the middle of Turn 2. The Swede did a phenomenal job to keep the car off the wall, but has some work to do tomorrow night on a track where passes don’t come easily. Pato O’Ward salvaged seventh on the grid for the team with a 180.303mph run, but he also felt he left something on the table. “I went a little too conservative on my run,” he said. “There was a bit more grip available.”
Until the final seven cars rolled out, the session was ruled by Takuma Sato, who’d gone out relatively early – he was eighth in line – and set a 180.048mph that he wasn’t particularly happy with. “Honestly, I got a lot of slide,” he said. “Unfortunately it was a little bit of a messy one.”
Messy or not, 11 other drivers took unsuccessful swings at it before O’Ward finally managed to bump the two-time Indy winner from the provisional top spot.
Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport kept things orderly with a 9-10-11-12. Romain Grosjean was the fastest of the bunch, although he’ll have another nine places added on tomorrow courtesy of a grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after Nashville. In his place will be Devlin DeFrancesco, who earned a career-best starting position of 10th based on speed, and will climb to ninth courtesy of Grosjean’s penalty.
“I’m really happy,” said the Canadian. “Very strong. When we tested here a week ago we thought we were decent, but we knew we needed to make gains and I think we rolled off the truck really strong. We were very close to overstepping, but we had a good strong qualifying run, and that’s something that had been eluding us.”
UP NEXT: Practice 2, 7pm ET