Power On Pole at St. Louis

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 20 2022

Will Power’s bid for the 2022 IndyCar Series championship got a boost Friday.

Will Power’s bid for a second INDYCAR championship now includes an historic record book update.

Power’s 67th career pole tied open-wheel icon Mario Andretti for the all-time series record during qualifying Friday afternoon for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

The series point-leader, Power turned a two-lap average speed of 182.727 mph around the 1.25-mile oval outside of St. Louis to earn his fourth pole of the season. Power, the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion with Team Penske, will bank an extra point for the NTT P1 Award. The native of Australia leads six-time series champ Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing by just six points with three races remaining.

Andretti had stood alone as INDYCAR’s qualifying ace since Aug. 1, 1993. “Yeah, something I’ve had my eye on for a while,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. “I think when I got to 60, I was like, ‘This could be possible.’ Yep, it’s definitely a big box to tick.

“Amazing year so far. This is a big victory for me, to reach the 67 number and equal such a legend of the sport in Mario Andretti. I just can’t believe that I’m right there with Mario because there’s been no one like him.”

Saturday’s live coverage of the season’s final oval-track event is scheduled to begin with a half-hour preview show at 6 p.m. (EDT) on the USA Network and Peacock Premium, as well as the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Fellow-championship contender Marcus Ericsson, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion from Chip Ganassi Racing, will join Power on the front row after his qualifying run of 182.070 mph in the No. 8 Honda. Ericsson is third in points, 12 behind Power.

“Front row start, my best-ever qualifying in INDYCAR with P2,” said Ericsson, the native of Sweden who earned double points by winning on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29. “I’m really happy and proud of the No. 8 Bryant Honda and the whole crew. I think we did a really good job and delivered strong cars and tuned things up for qualifying. Of course you want that first pole when you’re that close, but I’m still happy with our effort and our performance. It’s a really good spot to start.”

The race is scheduled for 260 laps/325 miles around INDYCAR’s version of a Saturday night bull ring. “I’m not feeling any relief because I’m so focused on the race and the championship,” Power said. “That’s really the big thing on my mind, is having a good day. Yeah, everyone’s at the front, so it’s just going to be…it’s pretty typical of INDYCAR, right? It’s just going to go down to the last race. The way I see it, even on points right now, it’s that close, it can just flip. It’s going to be about who can finish ahead of who. Simple as that.”

Power, 41, scored his first pole on Oct. 21, 2006 at Surfers Paradise in Australia driving for Walker/Team Australia in the Champ Car World Series. Power drove for KV Racing Technology in 2008 before making his debut with Team Penske during a six-race schedule in 2009.

“When I got the double pole at Iowa (July 23-24), that’s when it (tying Mario) became really realistic,” Power said. “The year before I had one pole. I think the year before that I had three. It was getting increasingly harder to get pole position. I was kind of thinking, ‘This is going to be pretty hard to beat.’ But the double pole at Iowa was real key. Yep, great team, great engine, great crew. That’s what I’ve had. I’ve been lucky.”

Two-time series champion and 2022 title contender Josef Newgarden will start third after his run of 181.629 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden, who has won the last two races at the track, is fourth in points, 22 behind Power.

“If I could have done a better first lap, I think for sure (it would have been pole),” said Newgarden, the series champ in 2017 and 2019. “The car was really capable there as you saw on the second lap. I just did not get that first lap good enough. I wish I could have a redo, but you can’t. You have to go out and put your best foot forward when it’s time. I had a great car. PPG and Team Chevy…the speed was there. We have speed here this weekend. We just have to put that to best of use.

“I wish I had maximized my car. I think we have a great car. I just hate missing it.”

Scott McLaughlin ensured the asymmetrical oval was a Penske playground with all three cars in the first two rows of the grid, as the native of New Zealand qualified fourth at 181.406 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Chip Ganassi Racing also enjoyed a strong session, landing three cars in the top six. Reigning series champion Alex Palou of Spain qualified fifth at 181.289 mph in the No. 10 Honda, while Dixon, of New Zealand, will start sixth after a run of 180.954 mph in the No. 9  CGR Honda.

“It was an interesting day,” Dixon said. “We came here with a pretty big shift in strategy with how we were seeing the car. It took us a while to sort that out, and then in qualifying we made another big shift, but honestly the car was good. I just didn’t attack enough on my first lap and then second lap. I kind of tried to go too deep into Turn 3 and got some understeer. Ideally, I think the car should have been where Marcus was on the front row or second row. But P6 is a good starting point and we can definitely work from there.”

Dixon’s 53rd career series victory on Aug. 7 in the Streets of Nashville not only broke a deadlock with Andretti for second on INDYCAR’s all-time wins list, it also positioned him for a late-season run at tying A.J. Foyt Jr.’s record of seven championships.

Dixon, 42, is bidding to match the series record of seven championships held by “Super Tex,” also the all-time leader with 67 career victories. Dixon won his titles in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2020 _ all for team-owner Chip Ganassi. 

Power’s pole wasn’t a shocker, given he already had led the series with three poles entering this event and paced practice earlier Friday at 180.539 mph. Power also won the pole for this race last year at 180.618 mph.

Still, there was nothing routine about his qualifying attempt in the shadow of the famous Gateway Arch. Power tried to keep the throttle pedal to the floor through Turns 3 and 4 during his last lap but realized he needed to downshift to complete the corner without contact. Power kept his car off the SAFER Barrier and delivered that coveted 67th pole.

“I’m still shaking,” Power said. “There was nothing left on the table _ let’s put it that way. The second lap, I was loose in (Turns) 1-2 and then tried to go again as much as I could in (Turns) 3-4.”

Qualifying did produce one incident. Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist spun exiting Turn 2, skillfully avoiding the SAFER Barrier and spinning slowly into the tire barrier on the inside of the track with very light contact to the rear of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Rosenqvist, who will start last in the 26-car field, was uninjured.

Earlier, INDYCAR officials announced a nine-position starting grid penalty for Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 Honda driven by Romain Grosjean for an unapproved engine change following the race on the Streets of Nashville on Sunday, Aug. 7. The Frenchman, who originally qualified ninth at 179.925 mph, was dropped from to 18th on the grid.

“We took a chance with taking out too much front wing so there was a bit of understeer in the car. I think the No. 28 crew have done a good job today,” said Grosjean, a former Formula One regular in his second INDYCAR season and first with the team owned by Michael Andretti. “Ovals are still new to me, but I love them. Looking forward to race day.”

Helio Castroneves will get another shot at winning a record-breaking fifth Indianapolis 500 next season. Meyer Shank Racing confirmed Friday that Castroneves will return to the team’s INDYCAR program for 2023 in the No. 06 Honda.

Castroneves joined MSR for an abbreviated six-race program in 2021. The native Brazilian made an immediate and historic impact for the Ohio-based organization by winning his first start for MSR _ the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves joined A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” exactly 12 years after his previous 500 win in 2009 for Team Penske. Castroneves also prevailed at IMS in 2001 and 2002 for team-owner Roger Penske.

Castroneves’ popular win also was the first in INDYCAR for MSR, which made its series debut in 2017.  The 2021 Indy 500 was MSR’s 38th entry after the team ran a six-race program in 2018 and 10 races in 2020. MSR competed fulltime in 2020 and expanded in 2021 to one fulltime entry for Englishman Jack Harvey and the partial season with Castroneves, who again will race alongside Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 Honda in 2023.

“Keeping Helio onboard wasn’t really a question for us,” said Mike Shank, co-owner of the team with Jim Meyer. “We’ve built a really strong relationship with him over these last two race seasons. He brings so much to the table, on and off the track. He’s been able to help us grow as a team and we’ve been able to learn from his years of experience. It’s truly a mutually beneficial relationship.  And of course he’s a perfect face of the sport and has such an infectious personality, so to have him on our team is an honor.”

To-date, Castroneves has 31 INDYCAR victories and 50 pole positions on his resume, placing him among the top-10 in both categories. Castroneves will start Saturday evening’s race y in Madison, Ill., from the 17th grid spot.

“It has been a good day so far and I’m super-excited about staying with the team like we announced today,” said Castroneves, 47. “I’m so happy we’ve got the chance to continue building on what we started this year.

“I have not been here (WWTR) for many years, so it’s pretty amazing to come back here. It was interesting to have the one practice session and then go straight into qualifying.  The car was handling really well and the team did a great job with the AutoNation/SiriusXM car.  I’m looking forward to the race. I think we’ve got a good setup and I think we can finish really well here.

“I’m super-optimistic for an amazing 2023 season because of everything that we have built this season _ all the positive data and positive energy. I can’t thank Mike and Jim enough and of course all of our partners. Simon and I are going to do everything we can to finish this season strong, and then have a good start to 2023 and some even better results.”

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


Qualifying Friday for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevrolet, 182.727 mph
2. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 182.070
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevrolet, 181.629
4. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevrolet, 181.406
5. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 181.289
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 180.954
7. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevrolet, 180.303
8. (51) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 180.048
9. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Dallara-Honda, 179.531
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 179.420
11. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 179.347
12. (18) David Malukas, Dallara-Honda, 179.159
13. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 178.778
14. (45) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 178.775
15. (20) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevrolet, 178.674
16. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 178.657
17. (06) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 178.356

  1. (28) Romain Grosjean, Dallara-Honda, 179.925
    19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Dallara-Honda, 178.165
    20. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Dallara-Chevrolet, 178.079
    21. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Dallara-Honda, 176.368
    22. (77) Callum Ilott, Dallara-Chevrolet, 176.184
    23. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevrolet, 176.005
    24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Dallara-Chevrolet, 173.902
    25. (33) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 173.667
    26. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevrolet, no speed


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 20 2022
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