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Power On Pole For Indy GP

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 12 2018

Will Power will start Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from the pole. (INDYCAR photo by James Black)

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

The Team Penske driver and 2014 series champion is looking to make it three-for-three on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course Saturday after collecting the Verizon P1 Award during qualifying. Power, who won the race from P1 in 2015 and 2017, earned the first starting position for a third time Friday with a lap of 1-minute, 9.8182-seconds and 125.761 mph in the Firestone Fast Six round of knockout qualifying.

The lap also marked the 51st pole of Power’s Indy car career, breaking a tie with teammate Helio Castroneves of Brazil for third place on the all-time list. Mario Andretti is the career leader with 67 pole positions and A.J. Foyt Jr. earned 53.

“We did have to dig deep,” said Power, a native of Australia and driver of the No. 12 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!

Meanwhile, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens missed winning his second pole of the season by less than a tenth of a second. Wickens cranked out a lap of 1:09.9052-seconds/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 series debut at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida in March.

“I’m a bit gutted with P2,” said Wickens, driver of the No. 6 Honda. “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.”

Sebastien Bourdais qualified third in the No. 18 Honda at 1:09.9449-seconds/125.533 mph. It marked 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,” said Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion and native of Le Mans, France. “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.”

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

Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Jordan King qualified fifth in the No. 20 Chevrolet (1:10.1326-seconds/ 125.197 mph), his best effort since earning the fourth starting spot on the Streets of St. Pete. Reigning series champion and current point-leader Josef Newgarden will start sixth after posting a lap of 1:10.7276-seconds/124.144 mph in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Simon Pagenaud _ winner of this event in 2014 and ’16 _ is the only driver other than Power to claim victory in this race.  Pagenaud qualified seventh in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“The Menards team this weekend has made major improvements with the race car,” said Pagenaud, a native of France and the 2016 series champion. “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. 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 and we’ve got a fast car.”

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 Chevrolet.

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

“The PNC Bank car actually wasn’t too bad earlier this morning in cooler conditions,” said Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion and native of New Zealand. “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.”

Twenty-four cars will take the green flag for Saturday’s 85-lapper, with live coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) 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.

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Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Conor Daly is partnering again with Lilly Diabetes for a program that will include the 102nd Indianapolis 500 later this month as well as his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in August.

Daly was named in March to drive the No. 17 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing dba Thom Burns Racing for 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 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., this summer. 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, who is looking to make his fourth Indy 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.”

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

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

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

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Qualifying results Friday 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, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:09.8182 (125.761 mph)
2. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:09.9052 (125.604)
3. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:09.9449 (125.533)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:10.0858 (125.281) 
5. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:10.1326 (125.197)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:10.7276 (124.144)
7. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:10.0382 (125.366)
8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:10.1062 (125.244)
9. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:10.1601 (125.148)
10. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 1:10.1847 (125.104)
11. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:10.1979 (125.081)
12. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:10.3592 (124.794)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:10.0985 (125.258)
14. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:10.1044 (125.247)
15. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:10.2859 (124.924)
16. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:10.2113 (125.057) 
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:10.3605 (124.792)
18. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:10.3221 (124.860)
19. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:10.5064 (124.533)
20. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:10.3371 (124.833)
21. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:10.6425 (124.293)
22. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:10.5066 (124.533)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:10.7784 (124.055)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 1:10.7394 (124.123)

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 12 2018
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