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Power speeds to third INDYCAR Grand Prix pole, 51st of his career

by Mike Haag | Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2018

Courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power has been unbeatable at the INDYCAR Grand Prix when starting the Verizon IndyCar Series race from the pole position.

Will Power is all smiles after scoring the pole position and the Verizon P1 Award for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo by: James Black

The Team Penske driver is looking to make it 3-for-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday after collecting the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying. Power, who won the race from the pole in 2015 and ’17, earned the first starting position for a third time with a lap of 1 minute, 9.8182 seconds (125.761 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six climactic round of knockout qualifying on Friday.

It also marked the 51st pole of Power’s Indy car career to break a tie with teammate Helio Castroneves for third place on the all-time list. Mario Andretti is the career leader with 67 pole positions and A.J. Foyt had 53.

“We did have to dig deep,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “I mean, that was everything I had. We made a downforce adjustment after the first round when we saw how fast the other guys were and kind of got close to them. And on used tires, the car was really good, so (I’m) stoked, man, really, really stoked!”

Will Power holds the Verizon P1 Award trophy after winning the pole position for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo by: James Black

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX: Qualifying results

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens missed winning his second Verizon P1 Award of the season by less than a tenth of a second. Driving the No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda, Wickens put in a lap of 1:09.9052 (125.604 mph) on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn permanent road course that will have the Canadian starting alongside Power on the front row. It was Wickens’ best qualifying effort since he won the pole in his Verizon IndyCar Series debut race, the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March.

“I’m a bit gutted with P2,” Wickens said. “We’re obviously in the front row, but when you lead the whole qualifying, you want to finish like that.

Will Power exits Turn 2 during qualifications for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Jones

“It was close. I ended up losing a few hundredths (of a second) in the end, but I can see why – it wasn’t the tidiest lap. You have to do the perfect job to get the pole here.”

Sebastien Bourdais qualified third in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda (1:09.9449, 125.533 mph). It’s the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver’s best INDYCAR Grand Prix qualifying effort in five tries.

“I had a really good run and was P1 for a portion,” Bourdais said. “That was about as good of a lap as I was going to get. … It was a good run and just made a small mistake in the last run. Hats off to the team, they did a great job.”

Marco Andretti dives into Turn 1 during qualifications for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

James Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, had his best qualifying result of 2018 and will start fourth in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda (1:10.0858, 125.281 mph).

Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Jordan King qualified fifth in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (1:10.1326, 125.197 mph), his best effort since earning the fourth starting spot at St. Petersburg. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and current points leader Josef Newgarden will start sixth after posting a lap of 1:10.7276 (124.144 mph) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Simon Pagenaud – in 2014 and ’16 – is the only driver other than Power to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Pagenaud qualified seventh in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power rolls out of Turn 4 during qualifications for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Photo by: Walter Kuhn

Spencer Pigot, King’s teammate at Ed Carpenter Racing, advanced past the first round of road/street-course qualifying for the first time in his three-year career and will start ninth in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet.

Conversely, four-time series champion Scott Dixon failed to advance out of the first qualifying round for the first time in three years and will start 18th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Twenty-four cars will take the green flag in Saturday’s 85-lap race, with live coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Drivers have a final chance to dial in their cars with a 30-minute warmup practice at 11:15 a.m. that streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Daly partners with Lilly Diabetes for Indy 500 and NASCAR debut

Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Conor Daly is partnering again with Lilly Diabetes for a program that will include the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil later this month and Daly’s debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in August.

Daly was named in March to drive the No. 17 United States Air Force Honda for Dale Coyne Racing dba Thom Burns Racing in the Indy 500. A Type 1 diabetic, Daly added support to the Indy program from Lilly Diabetes, while also announcing he would drive a second Roush Fenway Racing car in the Xfinity race at Road America in Wisconsin in August. Daly will team there with Ryan Reed, a fellow diabetic who attended Friday’s announcement.

“It’s obviously really cool to be a part of this (Lilly Diabetes) team, first of all, with us in the Indy 500 this year,” said Daly, seeking to make his fourth Indianapolis 500 start. “We got to work together in 2016, which I thought was a really cool first step into a relationship, and it was a late deal.

“We got it done after qualifying, but now we’ve got this whole month of May to work with it and kind of just grow together as a team. Then, obviously, I’m going to go into the NASCAR realm of life, so I’m excited for that.”

Ashley Brewer, consumer brand director for Lilly Diabetes, said it was a natural to partner once again with Daly.

“We worked with Conor back in 2016,” Brewer said. “We’re inspired by him and we saw how dedicated he was to his diabetes management, and that he was not going to let anything get in the way of him achieving his racing aspirations.

“Like Ryan, Conor has Type 1 diabetes. We’re thankful that he’s willing to share his story and to join Ryan and us in inspiring folks with diabetes to take action to better manage their health and their diabetes management.”

Practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday on the 2.5-mile oval. The race is set for Sunday, May 27.  

Mazda Road to Indy results

The INDYCAR-sanctioned Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder is conducting doubleheader race weekends at all three levels on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) came from behind to win the first weekend race in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top MRTI level. Harrison Scott (RP Motorsport Racing) won the first Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend. Alex Baron (Swan-RJB Motorsports) was victorious in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda weekend opener.

‘What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Grand Prix qualifying

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think the big thing was getting in the Firestone Fast Six for us. Unfortunately that was kind of my goal. We’d been in the top 10, just kind of hovering in it. We haven’t been super strong this weekend, been kind of tentative throughout. So (Will Power) put in a good lap, so congrats to him. That was a good lap he did at the end. I think we would have been OK. I think we probably had third or fourth potential, I don’t know. We ran out the one lap, had a huge lockup in Turn 1 with the rear, and then just didn’t really get to finish it. Not ultimately where we would have landed, but I think we were in that third or fourth range, so happy to be in the Fast Six. I think that’s good for us tomorrow. We can work with that. We’ve just got to keep trying to chip away and find our speed, and we’ve just been missing it this weekend for whatever reason. I think we’re getting there. We made some progress in qualifying, we just have to keep going and make it last for tomorrow now. Everyone has done a good job. It’s good to have a good Verizon Indy car, and hoping to have a good weekend tomorrow.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s been great to be back. It is definitely a different car, but my Verizon Chevy machine is looking strong. We did a lot of adjustments in one session to try to capitalize. We have nothing to lose. So, instead of being conservative, we just took a chance, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right direction. Good job from everyone to keep pushing. Now we have a race tomorrow. Starting in the top 10, it’s not that bad. We started ninth and finished on the podium (in the past). So (starting) one position back might get us a victory.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): 
“Qualifying was a bit difficult. We’re still struggling with the setup of the car. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race. It’s a long race, and I am hoping I can move forward from where I am starting. Hopefully, the entire team has a great result tomorrow. We are struggling while on black (Firestone primary) tires. When we have black tires, the car feels loose. If we can figure out this issue, we should be in a good place for the race tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Huge credit to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to get the Lucas Oil car and the Arrow Electronics car in the Firestone Fast Six today. It was a bad day to have a bad day with the compressed schedule, and we had a really bad Practice 2. We had some braking problems… we couldn’t develop the car at all. Luckily, we have a solid teammate in Robbie (Wickens), and he was quick in that second session. We were really able to lean on him and it shows. We ended up a tenth (of a second) apart, both in the Fast Six which is awesome. I was still kind of relearning the car in the first few laps; you don’t get a whole lot of laps in qualifying, so like I said, I’m really proud of the whole team.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Great job by the SPM guys – we got both cars in the Firestone Fast Six. I’m a bit gutted with P2… We’re obviously in the front row, but when you lead the whole qualifying, you want to finish like that. It was close. I ended up losing a few hundredths (of a second) in the end, but I can see why – it wasn’t the tidiest lap. You have to do the perfect job to get the pole here, but I’m happy to be back in the Fast Six; the last time we made it was in St. Pete. Tomorrow’s a whole new can of worms – let’s go play.” 

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The PNC Bank car actually wasn’t too bad earlier this morning in cooler conditions. We took a pretty hefty swing at it for qualifying, but the car didn’t feel like it had speed – it was just sort of on top of the track. That condition got worse as it got hotter and hotter, unfortunately. We’ll get back to a setup we know and then try and take it from there. Today, it just seemed like the heat made everything worse for us.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Not the result we wanted, obviously, in the NTT DATA car today. The conditions were a bit tough with the temperature, but for whatever reason, we still need to get the balance of the car a bit better. We have tonight to prepare and then put that to the test in tomorrow’s warmup before the race.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 INDYCAR Grand Prix winner, 2018 pole winner): “We did have to dig deep. I mean, that was everything I had. We made a downforce adjustment after the first round when we saw how fast the other guys were, and kind of got close to them, and on used tires, the car was really good. So stoked, man, really, really stoked.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Today was a big improvement from our performance at Barber. They are quite similar racetracks, so I’m quite pleased with the performance of our car today. On the last qualifying run, we tried something different. I made a little mistake that cost us two-tenths of a second. I didn’t match my lap time from Q1 (qualifying round 1). You cannot afford to lose two-tenths in this series. We have a good car and I believe that we can fight to the front tomorrow.”    

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “Clearly, I’m disappointed. It was frustrating to go out there and to lock up the right front like that. I’ve never had it where I went into Turn 1 and I couldn’t read the brake markers because the car was vibrating that badly. It’s disappointing because I think that we probably had a car that was quick enough to maybe advance. Was it a top-six car? No. But should it have advanced? Yes. We’re just going to have to work hard tomorrow and stay out of trouble. Turn 1 is going to be hectic tomorrow. Luckily, I’ve got Scott (Dixon) by me. Hopefully, he and I can take care of each other and go race.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “I think qualifying is always very important, but obviously, we didn’t really know what the SealMaster Honda was going to have for us, and we started off a little bit, which I really wasn’t expecting. I thought we had a good test, and I really was hoping to hit the ground running, and we didn’t. The car was OK, but just kind of average, and then we put the Firestone (alternate) red tires on, and it definitely came to life. You also look at the gaps, and you’re like, man, that’s just going to be really, really tricky to make it. I really had a very strong first run in Q1, and ust kind of positioned ourselves to be there. After that, I almost threw it away in Q2. Q3 was really strong, I just made a mistake and was able to put it together. We’ll see what we’ve got tomorrow, but I think it’s going to be if you can get yourself out at the start, and if we can avoid the punches. The car is pretty quick. It’ll be cool to make it kind of a trouble-free race here. We haven’t been able to do that. So looking forward to tomorrow, and we’re just going to try to keep it at the front.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “The pace isn’t really where we want it to be right now. We rolled out of the box pretty good with the Paysafe car and we had a decent first practice session this morning, but then we ended up struggling in Practice 2. Despite making changes after that session, we didn’t quite have the pace we’d like in qualifying. We’ll look over everything tonight and get ready for tomorrow. I’m confident my Dale Coyne Racing crew will give me a good car for the race tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The added time I got to practice here before the INDYCAR Grand Prix definitely helped me. We did a whole day of testing beforehand and the first lap this morning, I was straight up to speed where normally it takes a couple of runs to really get into the circuit and learns it’s characteristics. I didn’t need to do that today! It was a good start, really. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised on where we qualified. I’ve been focusing on doing my job and doing it at my own speed!”
 
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): “Starting inside the Top 10 is nice! We can definitely race from there, hopefully staying clean throughout the first lap and pick up a few positions. I’m happy with the Preferred Freezer Services Chevy. We had a good first round of qualifying. Once we got to Round 2, it felt like we picked up a bit too much understeer. That cost us, but overall, the car is good and we should have a good race!”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Menards team this weekend has made major improvements with the race car. I’m quite happy. I feel like we’ve made such a big improvement. Coming back, I’m a little disappointed. I think the car has more pace and I think we can challenge for the pole. We managed to save a lap on the first set of red Firestones (alternate tires). For the Firestone Fast Six, we would’ve been really good. It is what it is. It’s going to be good racing tomorrow and we’ve got a fast car.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet): “We just missed the mark a little bit today. I was struggling with finding grip and balance and we just couldn’t get the lap times that we needed out of the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet to move onto the second round of qualifying. We definitely have some work to do tonight to get ready for the morning warmup and green flag, but we know what we need to do to get to where we need to be.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda): “I think we are struggling as a whole. It seems like my teammates are fighting the same issues that we are. We’re all taking different stabs at it right now to try and figure out what the big piece is that we’re missing. It’s tough being where we’re going to be starting on merit, but that’s one nice thing about having my other teammates and a team as good as this – everybody works together, and you get faster overnight. We have a little bit of work to do tonight for sure, but tomorrow is a long day.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think we honestly missed it for qualifying today, which is disappointing. We were in the top three in both practice sessions, so I expected a lot more. We’ll just have to figure it out. We can pass pretty easily here, so I’m not worried about that, but it’s just pretty disappointing. We’re trying to fit in a lot in two days, but it’s the same thing for everyone and they just did a better job than us.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We’ve just been struggling with the balance all day – we call it disconnected – the car is loose in and understeer through (the turns). Unfortunately, we just missed the balance today in qualifying. The two cars in front of us were two-hundredths of a second quicker, and two-hundredths of a second faster would have put us up to P5 and that’s all we needed to advance. It’s unfortunate that it fell that way, but it is what it is. We’ll have to come through with it tomorrow for the DHL team.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “The first session was quite encouraging. The car felt better than at the test, and at that moment, it looked like we would have a good weekend. And then in the second practice, we started to struggle with a balance of grip. In qualifying, I tried really hard. It was a good feeling to get through the first round, but then we missed out getting to the third round by less than two-tenths. That shows how competitive it is these days. We just need a little more speed.” (About his outlook on the race): “It’s always challenging to overtake, but you can actually overtake here. There are two good opportunities per lap. We will try to make the most of it.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “So obviously, not the result we were hoping for in qualifying, but overall, I’m happy with the progress we made today. We didn’t get a chance to test here, so it was our first time rolling out here. From where we started to where we ended today in qualifying, we made huge strides. We tried stuff we have never tried before and got really good data, which will be useful the rest of the season. I’m happy with the overall effort and all of the work the team has put in with the changes, so we can get a good read on the car. I think come race time, we will have a pretty good race car, and hopefully, we can work our way through the field and come up with a good finish. I know it’s important to log in as many laps and get as much experience as we can, so that we just get better.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “Considering we’ve never been here before, and other teams who were testing here last month on the road course finished behind us, I’d say we’re doing OK. I really thought we had a little chance of scraping through to the top 12, especially with my last lap time, but it’s hot and windy out there, and I didn’t get a perfect lap with the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people got a perfect lap, though, so everyone is going to be saying that they had a little bit left. Regardless, I’m really happy with the progress we made in such a short period of time.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “It’s an obviously disappointing qualifying session to end up where we did. We did improve the car a bit and I think the good thing is that came from this session. We’ve taken a step towards the right direction and now we are getting ready to go over some data to see how we can make it even better for the race.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “Unfortunately, I don’t want to start 14th, that’s not our aim in these races, but to know we were just outside the top six by half a tenth, it hurts. You go through your head and there’s a million things you could have done, but I had (the car) pretty wrung out. I wanted more for the U.S. Concrete boys. We practiced better than we qualified, so that’s unfortunate, but we can draft, we can easily pass at this place. Honestly, I think we need to find that out in the morning if we have a good race car. I don’t think we know enough right now about the tire degradation, nobody does.”

 

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.