INDIANAPOLIS – Surprises and newcomers made their bid, but Will Power eventually re-established the status quo in qualifying for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on Friday.
The Team Penske driver drove to his third Verizon P1 Award in the past four years on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and will start Saturday’s race at the front of the 24-car field.
Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, is 10th in the 2018 standings after the first four races. His second-place finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach last month is the lone highlight.
“It’s been a rough start for the season, so we need a good result,” he admitted.
INDYCAR GRAND PRIX: Qualifying results
Power enters the 85-lap race on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network) hoping to fully reinstate the norm. He has claimed both of his INDYCAR Grand Prix wins from the pole, most recently last May. He also accomplished the sweep in 2015, as did Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud in 2016.
Power’s best lap of 1 minute, 9.8182 seconds (125.761 mph) came on his last trip around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course during the Firestone Fast Six, denying rookie Robert Wickens (1:09.9052) his second Verizon IndyCar Series pole and first since the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.
“We've been quick everywhere, started in the front row pretty much every race except for Phoenix,” said Power, who was also fastest in Friday’s two practies. “Yeah, we've been strong, just very disappointing the way we have gone, how it flows sometimes, and not changing anything. I know I've got the speed and we can put races together. Very stoked to start P1.”
Wickens, meanwhile, dubbed his second starting position “bittersweet.”
“I feel like a jerk being upset with second place,” Wickens admitted, “but I think when you go quickest in your first two (qualifying rounds), you kind of hope to finish the job off.”
Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, rookie Jordan King and defending series champion Josef Newgarden round out an eclectic top six of starters. Bourdais said a small mistake cost him a chance at the pole but declared himself “really, really stoked” coming off a fifth-place finish in the most recent race at Barber Motorsports Park, where a miscalculation with rain tires cost him a chance at a second win this season.
King had an adventurous trip in the first round of qualifying. Second quickest behind only Power in combined practice earlier Friday, King had an immediate brake problem in the session, consuming most of his 10 minutes of the qualifying window. His No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet team was able to correct the problem and affix a set of Firestone alternate tires in time for him to attempt two qualifying laps and launch into the second round.
“I wouldn't say I've surprised myself,” King said. “I'm more just focusing on doing my own job and doing it at my own speed, and it's proven to work. It's not so much that I'm constantly looking at the timing and scoring and seeing where I am, I'm just getting on with it, and where I end up is where I end up.”
The surprise of qualifying may have been King’s teammate, Spencer Pigot. Contesting his 25th Verizon IndyCar Series road- or street-course race, Pigot advanced past the first round of qualifying for the first time and will start ninth. That’s one spot ahead of Helio Castroneves, who is back in an Indy car for the first time this season after joining Team Penske’s sports car team full time.
In winning his 51st Indy car pole, Power moved ahead of teammate Castroneves and alone into third place on the all-time list, behind Mario Andretti (67) and A.J. Foyt (53).
“It's definitely satisfying when you get a pole like this,” Power said. “You've got to work so hard for it these days, so when you get one, you're pretty happy because you're beating, I reckon, the best guys in the world.
“Yeah, I like to give the young blokes a hard time when I can. I hate saying that now because I don't class myself as old.”
“We do,” interjected teammate and defending series champion Josef Newgarden. “Everybody else does.”
Maybe old, but now slowing down.
A 30-minute warmup practice starts at 11:15 a.m. Saturday rel="noopener noreferrer" and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.