LONG POND, Pennsylvania – As much success as he’s achieved in an outstanding racing career, Will Power still had difficulty accepting his name being placed alongside the great A.J. Foyt on Indy car’s all-time pole positions list.
ABC SUPPLY 500: Qualifying results
Yet that’s precisely where Power sits after claiming the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying Saturday for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Power’s two-lap average (219.511 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet gave the 2018 Indianapolis 500 champion pole No. 53 of his 14-year career, moving him into a tie for second on the all-time list with Foyt. Only Mario Andretti, with 67 career poles, has more.
“I never thought I'd be up in that sort of company,” Power said. “To be next to A.J. Foyt's name, I wouldn't have expected that when I started my career. So amazing!
“Great to be starting at the front here,” added Power, who earned his third pole and ninth front-row start of the season. “That’s what we need to get our championship back on track.”
The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Power picked up a precious bonus point for being fastest of the 22 qualifiers for Sunday’s 200-lap race (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network) on Pocono’s unique triangle oval.
“We trimmed a bit (to remove downforce for qualifying) because you’re going to be lifting (off the accelerator in the turns) anyway, so you may as well get a bit of a gain and have to hang onto it a little bit more and drive it,” Power explained of his run. “The car was really fast. Great job by everyone with such a quick turnaround from practice to have a good, fast car.”
Power is the two-time defending winner at Pocono and seeking to become the first driver in 40 years to win three consecutive Indy car 500-mile races, since Al Unser claimed the 1978 Triple Crown with superspeedway victories at Indianapolis, Pocono and the now-defunct Ontario Speedway in California.
Josef Newgarden, Power’s teammate, qualified second in the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet (218.802) to lock up the front row for Team Penske.
“Pretty happy with it,” Newgarden, the reigning series champion, said of his qualifying effort. “We had a good run. I was really happy with my two laps. Just wasn't enough for pole, unfortunately.
“One-two (in qualifying) for Team Penske, can't be mad about that. We have a good start for (Sunday). Now we just work on our race car, try to get that dialed in as best as we can, see what we can do for 500 miles.”
Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi (218.758) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (217.806) qualified third and fourth, respectively. It placed the four nearest competitors to championship leader Scott Dixon in the first two rows of the starting grid.
Dixon qualified 13th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (216.410). The four-time series champion leads Rossi by 46 points, Newgarden by 60, Power by 86 and Hunter-Reay by 95 heading into Sunday’s race.
“I think we were a little surprised with the understeer in the car, to be honest,” Dixon said. “Turn 3, I was flat, and then we’d struggle on the exit of Turn 1. The car bottomed out somewhat there in the first lap, so I’m not sure what happened.
“It is what it is, though, and the PNC Bank car feels comfortable. It’s a long race and we’ll have to deal with traffic and try and get to the front.”
Sunday’s race will be the 25th Indy car event at Pocono Raceway dating to 1971. Track officials confirmed on Saturday that Pocono will be part of the 2019 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The race date will be announced when the complete series schedule is revealed, expected to be in September.