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Power On Portland Pole

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 2 2018

Team Penske’s Will Power laid down the fastest lap in Portland qualifying on Saturday.

Add Portland International Raceway to the list of Indy car tracks where Will Power is a certified qualifying ace.

Having qualified seventh for his two previous starts at the facility in The Great Northwest _ in 2006 and ’07 _ Power blitzed the Verizon IndyCar Series field Saturday to raise his list of pole-winning tracks to 25.

Power re-set the track record during the first round of knockout qualifying with a lap of 57.2143-seconds around the 1.964-mile/12-turn permanent road-course in Oregon, eclipsing the previous mark of 57.597-seconds set by the late Justin Wilson in 2005. Competing in the Firestone Fast Six, Power posted a lap 0.3410-seconds quicker than Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden _ the third time in the past five qualifying sessions that Power won the pole with Newgarden second.

Additionally, Power moved past open-wheel icon A.J. Foyt Jr. into second place in career Indy car poles. Power now has 54 career poles, with “Super Tex” at 53. Mario Andretti leads all drivers with 67 poles.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously to be up with names like Foyt, pretty special and humbling,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. “I need to catch Mario now. I don’t think that will happen, that’s a lot of poles. But, yeah, unbelievable. I would never have dreamed of being up there with names like A.J. Foyt.”

Power was asked if his previous experience with this layout from his Champ Car World Series tenure played any part in his pole-winning performance.

“No, I can’t even remember that far back,” Power deadpanned. “I mean, it’s a very different track. A lot of grip, the car is different. But it’s a lot of fun. Really enjoying it out there. I think it’s the most grip we’ve had all year on a track. Cars are really hooked-up.”

The 2014 series champion, Power also took another step toward winning a second title. The point for pole moved the native Australian within 67 points of four-time series champion Scott Dixon with two races remaining. Power has a prime opportunity to gain on Dixon in Sunday’s race, as the Chip Ganassi Racing star qualified 11th.

“At the end of the day we have to win (races),” said Power, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of last Saturday night’s oval-track event at Gateway Motorports Park in Madison, Ill.

Newgarden, the reigning series champion, was pleased to complete the front row sweep for car-owner Roger Penske.

“I thought we would be top-five,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. “I felt like we had that speed, so did Will, for sure. I didn’t know if we would have enough for the pole. I hoped so. We had been there, flirting with that top spot. It was just difficult to read the time sheets with how many yellows (flags) we’ve had, how many checkups we’ve had. I don’t think anyone posted the best time in practice.

“We expected to be up there close, at least challenge for it in the Firestone Fast Six. We just had a better car on black (Firestone primary) tires, to be honest with you. Seems like the red (Firestone alternate) tires, we weren’t tuned well enough for. This whole weekend we built ourselves into a box of a better race car. I think our race car is going to be pretty good (for Sunday), but not as strong qualifying on red compound tires. That was our downfall. Missed a tenth or two (seconds) in five, six, seven corners from Will. That’s where he had a little bit of speed on us. But it’s a 1-2 for the team, can’t be disappointed.”

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who trails Dixon by 26 points, has a similar opportunity from the No. 3 starting position with Dixon several rows back.

“As I’ve always said, he (Dixon) can start wherever and he’ll still finish in the front,” said Rossi, driver of the No.27 Honda. “I think at the end of the day, you have to take the good with the bad and it’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing because I don’t think our car had the pace that Will did, and he’s been kind of the car to beat all weekend and we’re struggling to find that extra little bit.

“The positive is, obviously, we are ahead of Scott, so we have to maximize that as best we can. Hopefully, being on the inside for Turn 1 is a good thing because I know it’s definitely tight down there and it’s a long run down. On the outside, you’re exposed and that’s not a good thing. Third is better than second, but definitely worse than first, so we’ll put our heads together and try to come up with a car to run up-front.”

Dixon’s average starting position this season in the No. 9 Honda is only 8.4, and he has failed to start higher than ninth in the past three sessions. Dixon started ninth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, and 13th at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Still, he went on to finish fifth and third in those respective races.

“We were struggling definitely on the blacks (primary tires) with the car being really loose, and then we knew going to the reds (alternate tires) that it would flip-flop a little bit,” Dixon said. “The No. 1 car (Newgarden) came out of the pits, so we aborted the first lap and that’s when the tires are best. Then we actually started to catch him again a little bit, but I think he was trying to back up from someone else. It makes you hit it right with the reds and get the max out of it on one or two laps. You’re going to be out to lunch (otherwise), and that’s what happened to us in the PNC Bank car today.”

Sebastien Bourdais rallied from a crash at the end of the morning’s practice to qualify fourth. The Frenchman had just turned the session’s fastest lap when he lost control in Turn 10 and slammed into the tire barrier with the rear of the car. The crew of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan repaired the chassis in less than three hours.

“That Gorilla Automotive Products Honda No. 18 crew did an amazing job,” Bourdais said. “Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I probably just missed the apex by a foot and got myself in the dirt and that was that. Didn’t realize the line was that narrow, but when I got out of that car I didn’t see a chance that we were going to be able to get back out there (for qualifying). The entire team, three crews that we have here on-site for Dale Coyne Racing and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, pulled it together, and man, it was pretty impressive. The car was as good as it was this morning, so it’s pretty amazing. Hats off to those guys. Hopefully, we can get a good result out of this one.”

Dale Coyne Racing’s effort this weekend includes American rookie Santino Ferrucci _a test/reserve driver for American-owned Haas F1 Team in the FIA Formula One World Championship _ as well as rookie series regular Pietro Fittipaldi.

“Without three crews, I don’t think we would have been able to put the car together,” Bourdais said. “It was an incredible effort to recover from my mistake.”

Andretti Autosport placed three drivers in the Fast Six. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner, will start from the fifth position and rookie Zach Veach from a career-best sixth. Veach reached the final qualifying round for the first time this season.

“I’m very lucky to have the teammates I do,” said Veach, driver of the No. 26 Group 1001 Honda. “Every weekend they set the bar insanely high. I’m trying to close the gap. Each weekend, it gets easier and easier. You see where that level is going to be, that’s what you strive to get to. I’m lucky. The past three places that we ran at, I think a lot of it’s an experience gap between rookies and guys that have been doing this. I was lucky to test at Gateway, Pocono, here about a month ago. That really helps you get up to speed a little quicker and have a better understanding of how to get towards the top of the charts, I think.”

This will be the first race sanctioned by INDYCAR and contested at PIR since 2007. Sunday’s broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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The Mazda Road to Indy development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR has doubleheader events scheduled for all three levels at PIR. The first race in each series took place Saturday.

_ Native Mexican Patricio O’Ward capped a dominating Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season by winning for the ninth time in 16 races. O’Ward, a 19-year-old resident of San Antonio, Texas, held off Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta to secure the series title. The season concludes Sunday with a race at 12:55 p.m. (EDT).

Pole-sitter O’Ward broke the record for most poles collected in a single season (nine), a mark previously shared by Bryan Herta, Colton’s father; Townsend Bell, Thiago Medeiros and Ed Jones _ all with eight poles.

Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights program posted its 48th win. Since 2005, the organization owned by Michael Andretti has earned two series titles (2008/Raphael Matos and ’09/JR Hildebrand) and two Freedom 100 wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2016/Dean Stoneman and ’18/Herta).

_Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) won the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race by 1.3482-seconds over series champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing). Sunday’s race is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. (EDT).

_ Kyle Kirkwood, who wrapped up the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship a month ago for Cape Motorsports, won the 25-lap race. Rasmus Lindh actually led the first lap, but Kirkwood passed him on Lap 2 and led the rest of the way for his 11th victory of the season. A win in Sunday’s 6:20 p.m. (EDT) race would tie Kirkwood with JR Hildebrand (2006) for the series record for most wins in a season.

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Qualifying results Saturday for the Grand Prix of Portland Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.964-mile/12-turn Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

  1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 57.3467-seconds (123.292 mph)
  2. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 57.6877 (122.563)
  3. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 57.7361 (122.461)
  4. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 57.8881 (122.139)
  5. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 57.9699 (121.967)
  6. (26) Zach Veach-R, Honda, 58.1057 (121.682)
  7. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 57.6429 (122.659)
  8. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 57.6499 (122.644)
  9. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 57.7277 (122.478)
  10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 57.7772 (122.374)
  11. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 57.8554 (122.208)
  12. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 57.9010 (122.112)
  13. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 57.9620 (121.983)
  14. (6) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 57.6748 (122.591)
  15. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 57.9865 (121.932)
  16. (19) Pietro Fittipaldi-R, Honda, 57.7321 (122.469)
  17. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 57.9939 (121.916)
  18. (39) Santino Ferrucci-R, Honda, 57.7735 (122.381)
  19. (4) Matheus Leist-R, Chevrolet, 58.0036 (121.896)
  20. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 57.7848 (122.357)
  21. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 58.1635 (121.561)
  22. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 58.0983 (121.697)
  23. (32) Alfonso Celis Jr.-R, Chevrolet, 58.2735 (121.331)
  24. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 58.2531 (121.374)
  25. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 58.3219 (121.231)

Note _R-Series rookie

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 568; 2,Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 542; 3, Will Power, Team Penske, 501; 4, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 490; 5, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 421; 6, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 400; 7, Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 391; 8, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 371; 9, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 353; 10, Sebastien Bourdais , Dale Coyne Racing, 334.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 2 2018
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