Laguna "far from won" despite rivals' qualifying setbacks – Power

Jake Galstad/Lumen

Laguna "far from won" despite rivals' qualifying setbacks – Power


Laguna "far from won" despite rivals' qualifying setbacks – Power


IndyCar qualifying at Laguna Seca went perfectly to script for Will Power, who emerged with a record-breaking pole position after a session that brought setbacks of varying severity for all four of his championship rivals. But despite padding his lead with an extra point for pole, he believes the race is still wide open.

Power’s Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon both went into qualifying 20 points behind the Australian, and both were eliminated in the opening qualifying round: Newgarden spun at the Corkscrew; Dixon couldn’t get his tires working for the final scramble under green flags. Another spin at the hairpin and a couple of wheels in the gravel at an inopportune time for CGR’s Marcus Ericsson and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin respectively stopped both from progressing to the Fast 6.

While their early exits on Saturday made the rest of the afternoon easier from Power’s standpoint, he also noted that it leaves his rival with fresher tires for the race.

“It made things easier [when they had problems],” he said. “Less pressure for sure, because we didn’t have to shadow exactly what those guys did.

“[But] in this series, a problem like that can win you the race tomorrow, because you have more tires. It kind of sucks because Firestone, or the series, doesn’t give us enough tires. But that can totally be the winning strategy. ‘What happened?’ ‘I screwed up in qualifying.’ ‘That’s how you won the race?’ That’s how this thing rolls sometimes.

“[Dixon’s starting position of 13th] is a great spot because he didn’t use his tires up, and he’s not that far back. So, yeah, tough, man; tough race. It’s far, far, far from won, and I’m really aware of that.”

Power’s 68th career pole pulled him clear of Mario Andretti’s all-time record; an achievement that was saluted by a line of well-wishers that extended the full length of pitlane. Andretti himself was among them, along with team owner Roger Penske, and Power conceded that his 100 percent focus on Sunday might have slipped to 98 percent for just a few moments.

“I couldn’t celebrate it very much because I’m so focused on tomorrow and I don’t want to give out too much energy because I’m going to need it tomorrow, but yeah, a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.

“I saw Roger there, I saw Mario there and all the cameras, and I thought, ‘this is really surreal.’ It just blows my mind. I surpassed Mario, and obviously I drive for Roger, but just to have those two legends there congratulating me…it’s real, and a lot of gratitude for the chances and the opportunities I’ve been given over the last decade and a half. Very fortunate. Very fortunate, and I want to repay them with a championship tomorrow.

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