Will Power Will Start P1 On Indy Road Course

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 13 2017

Will Power was fastest on the Indy infield on Friday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)


Team Penske reached another milestone at the INDYCAR Grand Prix Friday, earning its 250th pole position in Indy car history while extending its Verizon P1 Award domination on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course.

Will Power broke his track record with a lap of 1 minute, 7.7044-seconds at 129.687 mph during the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three knockout qualifying rounds to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner. Power gave Team Penske its third straight pole position on the 2.439-mile/14-turn circuit and made the organization 5-for-5 in pole qualifying at all series tracks this season.

“In the Fast Six, the car had a fantastic balance and did a really neat lap,” said Power, who collected his third Verizon P1 Award this season. “I was actually up on the second set (of Firestone tires) and then got too greedy at the end. But yeah, really cool to start at the front again.”

Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, paced a Penske logjam at the front of the grid. Teammate Helio Castroneves qualified second in the No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Josef Newgarden was third in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevy and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevy.

“I thought it was pretty good,” said Montoya, a two-time Indy 500 champion who is running a limited schedule for team-owner Roger Penske in 2017. “It’s OK; last time I qualified was September or something last year, so I feel pretty good. I’m working with a new engineer and with Ron Ruzewski, and we seem to have really good chemistry, doing a really good job together. Our goal was to make the Fast Six, and we did, and to be honest, we had pace to be second-fastest today, no problem. I missed it by a tenth and a-half, and I made a hundred mistakes in the lap.”

Reigning INDYCAR Grand Prix and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud brought up the rear of the Team Penske contingent, qualifying seventh in the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet.

“It just didn’t work out and wasn’t our day,” Pagenaud said. “The team worked really hard throughout the day, but it doesn’t always go the way you’d like. We’ll start seventh, which isn’t terrible. We came from the back at St. Pete. You never know what’s going to happen. I feel really good about the car and look forward to a good result in the race.”

Penske newcomer Newgarden was the first to break Power’s 2016 track record of 1:08.6746-seconds in the first round of qualifying. Power re-established himself as the record-holder in the second round, with the first official lap of less than 1:08 around the circuit, then bettered it in the Firestone Fast Six to earn the 47th pole of his 13-year Indy car career _ the fifth most all-time.

“Really determined to have a good race,” said Power, the 2015 INDYCAR Grand Prix winner whose only top-10 finish thus far in 2017 was two weeks ago on the Phoenix Raceway oval. “I’ve been knocking on the door every week, and one is going to go our way here soon. You put yourself in that position, it’ll happen. That’s the plan.”

Power and Castroneves have alternated winning the pole at the first five races this season. The Brazilian, who turned 42 on Wednesday, was relegated to starting second in Saturday’s fourth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix but will be on the front row for the fourth consecutive race in 2017.

“There is nobody in front of me, that’s great,” Castroneves said, “so we’re looking forward to a good start. Excited for tomorrow. Hopefully we have a good, clean start and see what happens in the race.”

Four-time series champion Scott Dixon qualified fourth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda. The Chip Ganassi Racing star has reached the Firestone Fast Six at all four road/street events this season.

“I think we unloaded fast and had a good start to the day in practice overall with the NTT Data car,” Dixon said. “The second practice didn’t really allow us to lay down a good lap with the timing of the red flag at the end of the session. I’m pretty happy with the car but the Chevys are going to be hard to beat. I think it will be an interesting race and anything can happen here.”

Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion and winner of the season-opener at St. Petersburg in March, qualified a season-best sixth in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

“Well, it’s actually the first good qualifying effort (of 2017) to be honest,” Bourdais said. “You know, we really struggled with pace and couldn’t quite get things where we wanted to be. It’s the first time we were a legit Firestone Fast Six car and we’re in the mix, we’re in the fight, this fight being in the middle of a Penske fest. You know, it’s quite good. I feel like we’re in a bit of the minority here with Scott (Dixon). No, really, hats off to those boys and our Honda tech guy did a really, really nice job, as well, in qualifying. We did everything we had to do and did it well, and it was pretty close.

“Made a small mistake on that last lap in Segment 3. I just went for it, like ‘OK, we just need a little bit more,’ and lost the rear in the start of the lap. So that turned into a one-lap-only effort. But there were countless hours to build that car back up from what it was after Phoenix, which really wasn’t much at all left. So you know, they worked every day except Sunday. It’s a big testament to that small organization that’s really got inspiration to grow and develop, and it’s just a cool feeling.”

Pagenaud, who won the most recent Verizon IndyCar Series race April 29 at Phoenix Raceway, leads the championship by 18 points over Dixon heading into Saturday’s 85-lapper (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires conducted the first of two weekend races Friday on the IMS road course. Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport) won the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race by 0.8405-seconds over Zachary Claman De Melo (Carlin).

In the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) won by 0.2092- seconds over TJ Fischer (Team Pelfrey). In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) drove to his fourth win of the season by 3.3461-seconds over Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey).

Qualifying results for the INDYCAR Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:07.7044-seconds (129.687 mph)
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:08.1169 (128.902) 
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:08.1622 (128.816)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:08.2454 (128.659)
5. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:08.2478 (128.655)
6. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:08.3973 (128.373)
7. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:08.4461 (128.282)
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:08.5735 (128.044)
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:08.5824 (128.027)
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:08.8668 (127.498)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:08.9151 (127.409)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:08.9853 (127.279)
13. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:09.0025 (127.248)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:08.6675 (127.868) 
15. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:09.0557 (127.150)
16. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:08.9484 (127.347)
17. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:09.1777 (126.925)
18. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:08.9937 (127.264)
19. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:09.1796 (126.922)
20. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:09.0985 (127.071)
21. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:09.6123 (126.133)
22. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:09.3134 (126.677)  


| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 13 2017
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