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Penske’s Power On Iowa Pole

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 9 2017

Will Power went out last and came back first during IndyCar qualifying at Iowa Speedway on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Team Penske’s Will Power doesn’t usually need the added advantage of being last in the qualifying order _ when track conditions typically are best _ or the benefit of seeing how his teammates have fared to secure a Verizon IndyCar Series pole.

Armed with the bonus of drawing the last spot in Saturday’s qualifying session for the Iowa Corn 300, Power was not to be denied. The 36-year-old Australian blitzed the field to earn the 48th pole position of his 13-year Indy car career with a two-lap speed average of 185.210 mph. The 2014 series champion will lead the grid to the green flag for the fourth time this season Sunday afternoon in Newton, Iowa.

“It’s just about hard work and bringing out your raw speed when you need it. I love qualifying,” said Power, who closed within one pole of tying Bobby Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car list. “It’s the part of the weekend where you push and give everything you can possibly give.”

Power’s two-lap average in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was 1.4 mph faster than the second-place qualifier, Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand. It marks the second pole on Iowa Speedway’s tight 0.894-mile oval for Power and the third straight at the track for Team Penske, whose 252 Indy car poles are the most of any team in history.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking when I watched my teammates’ data because you can watch it live on the (pit) stand and they were having big spikes of oversteer,” said Power, who looked on as Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves qualified ahead of him. “We were thinking we didn’t run enough downforce, but the track came in a little bit and we watched Helio’s run _ it was really solid _ so I knew we’d be thereabouts. Really, really happy for the Verizon car to be on pole.”

And maybe not so much. Historically, no Iowa pole-sitter has gone on to win the race in 10 previous Verizon IndyCar Series events at Iowa, and Team Penske has yet to win a race at the track.

Hildebrand’s career-best qualifying effort of second was impressive as well, considering the 29-year-old Californian crashed the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet during morning practice. Uninjured save for bruised knees, Hildebrand nearly lost the car in the same spot in Turn 2 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt, but saved it and completed the run.

“We certainly came in here expecting that we could put the car in the front row, so I’m just sort of in a way relieved that we were able to recover from this morning and do that,” said Hildebrand, whose average speed of 183.811 mph came in the same chassis that Newgarden drove to victory at Iowa for ECR in 2016, leading an Indy car-record 282 laps.

“You obviously want to be able to capitalize on opportunities to get poles when they present themselves,” Hildebrand said. “Today certainly would have been one of those for us, but I think in the big scheme of things we’ll certainly take a front-row spot. A lot of credit to the team to give me something to be confident to get back out there and push pretty hard.”

As with Row 1, the second row for the 300-lapper will consist of a driver each from Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing. Castroneves qualified third in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet (183.712 mph), with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter fourth in the No. 20 Chevrolet (183.503 mph).

Takuma Sato, winner of May’s 101st Indianapolis 500, qualified fifth and was the top Honda with an average speed of 182.653 mph in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport entry.

AJ Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz did not complete his qualifying run after spinning in Turn 2 and making light SAFER Barrier contact with the rear of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Munoz will start last in Sunday’s race, the 11th of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Point-leader Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Pagenaud suffered from being the first three drivers in the qualifying order, when the track was the most green. Pagenaud (No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 11th; Newgarden (No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 16th after leading opening practice and Dixon (No. 9 Honda) was 17th.

The 11th annual Verizon IndyCar Series race from Iowa Speedway kicks off with live coverage on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 5 p.m. (EDT) Sunday

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Earlier, INDYCAR imposed penalties against Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 9 entry for violations of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book during the KOHLER Grand Prix race weekend June 23-25 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Scott Dixon, a four-time series champion, was cited for three violations:

_ The No. 9 car entered the track 56 seconds after the checkered flag had waved concluding the race morning warmup practice on June 25, a violation of Rule 7.2.9.1;

_ At the same time, the No. 9 car entered the pit lane from the paddock area under its own power instead of being pushed or towed to pit lane, a violation of Rule 7.9.1;

_The No. 9 car failed to obey the direction of INDYCAR, a violation of Rule 9.3.1.7.

INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the series, imposed a monetary fine against the team and ordered that the No. 9 entry serve a time penalty of 20 minutes at the conclusion of the first practice session Saturday in Newton, Iowa.

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INDYCAR has announced a multiyear extension with Xtrac, Inc. that continues the brand’s longtime position as official supplier of transmissions for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Xtrac is one of INDYCAR’s longest-tenured partners. Xtrac’s parts are utilized across the motorsports landscape in disciplines including Formula One, sports cars _ specifically IMSA, GT and touring cars _ and rally competition. Xtrac began supplying transmissions for several Indy car teams in the 1990s and became the exclusive supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2000.

“Working with INDYCAR since the 2000 season, when Xtrac was first awarded the sole gearbox supply contract, has been an extremely rewarding time for us,” said Andrew Heard, Xtrac vice president. “We are now on the third design of gearbox and each one has been developed to help increase reliability and safety. Having the contract extended gives us the confidence to keep investing in our support of this fantastic open-wheel race series.

“In May of this year, we increased the size of our support facility in Indianapolis by nearly 100 percent, which will allow us to help the Verizon IndyCar Series to continue to flourish in the coming years.”

As part of the agreement, Xtrac will continue to provide an award at the season-ending Verizon IndyCar Series championship celebration and an award to the winner of the Indianapolis 500.

“INDYCAR appreciates the contribution Xtrac has made to the sport and looks forward to this extended partnership,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “Commitments from companies like Xtrac are crucial to the fabric of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Xtrac was established in 1984 and has locations in England, Mooresville, N.C., and the renovated space in Indianapolis.

“I’m honored on behalf of everyone at Xtrac for INDYCAR to have recognized our longstanding partnership with this contract extension,” said Adrian Moore, Xtrac managing director. “Such is the importance to Xtrac of our presence in Indianapolis, I was proud to open our expanded facility during the Month of May. We’ve had fantastic support from both INDYCAR and the city of Indianapolis itself. It’s the perfect location for our U.S. facility and I look forward to us growing further with the city and INDYCAR.”

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Final qualifying results Saturday for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:    
    
1.  (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 185.210     
2.  (21) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 183.811    
3.  (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 183.712    
4.  (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 183.503    
5.  (26) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 182.653    
6.  (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 182.454    
7.  (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 182.394    
8.  (19) Ed Jones-(R), Dallara-Honda, 182.290    
9.  (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 181.187    
10.  (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 181.138     
11.  (1) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 181.137    
12.  (98) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 181.136    
13.  (8) Max Chilton, Dallara-Honda, 180.927    
14.  (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 180.863    
15.  (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 180.716    
16.  (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 180.343    
17.  (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 180.302    
18.  (18) Esteban Gutierrez-(R), Dallara-Honda, 179.389    
19.  (4) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 178.613     
20.  (27) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 171.710    
21.  (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Chevy, no speed

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 9 2017
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