|Power almost broke 190 mph to win the pole|
Turning a lap record speed of 189.709 mph Will Power won his 50th career IndyCar pole for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500K IndyCar race at Gateway Motorsports Park in his #12 Penske Chevy.
Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud made it a Penske 1-2-3-4.
Ed Carpenter rounded out the top-5 and gave Chevy powered cars a clean sweep of the top-5
IF I do the math correctly, Will Power could be lapping the 5th place Ed Carpenter by the 24th lap. Will's speed of 23.3 seconds per lap was a full second faster, some 5 mph faster, than Carpenter — no slouch on the oval himself.
Of course this won't happen, as the rest of the field will have to be passed before that happened. But that illustrates just how much faster Team Penske is compared to the rest of the field. No doubt having 4 of the top drivers comparing notes helps, but it's also likely that Penske shocks being used at team Penske aren't exactly those being used by the balance of the field. As any racer knows, shocks can be crucial.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]It's no surprise that Will Power grabbed the pole. Fast in practice earlier, with precious little practice for the rest of the field to catch up, and a strong qualifier (this is his 50th Pole Award!), some suggested that the sticker could've been mailed to his house earlier in the week. Power commented, “Very gratifying. We got all four Penske guys up there. (Power-1, Newgarden-2, Castroneves-3, Pagenaud-4). I got a little bit loose on the second lap into (turn) one that caught me by surprise. The Verizon Chevy is very quick obviously. Fantastic. 50 poles. Wow. I never would have dreamed of that when I started. I am very humbled to be up there with AJ Foyt and Helio Castroneves."
Further down the list, after the Penske First Four Party — Takuma Sato had the fastest Honda, and will start 6th, starting next to Ed Carpenter. AJFoyt Racing had a great day, with Munoz starting 8th for tomorrow's race, and Connor starting 11th — only 1/10th of a second slower than his team mate.
The big news of the weekend is the return of Sebastien Bourdais. Sadly, Sebastien, by his own account, "played it safe" and will start 19th, next to Marco Andretti. Sebastien came back to prove that "nothing has changed" — and time will see just how much the events in May resonate in his head while on the track.
When asked about passing backmarkers in traffic, Power was concerned about how that might happen. He suggested that a second lane might open up in turns 3 and 4 (the "wide" end of the track). However earlier in the day he commented to use that there is probably no way a second lane opens up in narrow end in 1-2. Ed Carpenter confirmed this idea — too fast, too much grip, and therefore even if a second groove appears, people won't use it since they would lose speed.
So the problem, heading into tomorrow, is this — a brand new pavement is already smooth and sticky. The teams all brought their road course high-downforce aero package (even if around half the field is running their big oval car that they ran in Pocono). All of that combines to present the possibility of a game of follow-the-leader that we saw in Phoenix. And you got it — Firestone brought the same tires that they ran in Phoenix.
By all accounts, Gateway has busted their collective butt to raise money and renovate the place this summer. New paint has been sprayed on all the walls, new cables in the fencing, new pavement on the track. They've promoted this event as hard as any non-IMS event in recent history. But a boring parade race won't exactly be what they need to make all of that hard work, work.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "I wish we could gone out a little later, but nothing I can do about that. The Menards Chevrolet felt very comfortable. I like how the track feels. They did a great job with it. We'll start fourth, which is good, but I have my three Team Penske teammates in front of me, which will make it more difficult. And unfortunately, those aren't the only cars to be concerned with. I think the race will be very competitive. Everyone will have to have complete focus and that's not always the easiest thing. It's not like Pocono where there are some long straights to take a little break. Turning 24-second laps is pretty quick, but we're definitely looking forward to going for a win like we had at Phoenix."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "We put together a great couple of laps in the PPG Chevy. I knew it would be tough to keep Will (Power) out of that top spot. That's one of the great advantages of going last. We share all of our information. Sometimes I've been on the good side of that and sometimes I haven't. That's one of the hallmarks of Team Penske – it's all one team. Sure, I would like to have the pole position, but we're right there. I think we'll get there, so it's nothing that's super disappointing or anything. We'll start second and see what happens."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): "What a run. We had a really fast car, but not enough for the pole. Still, we had a really fast car. The No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet will definitely have a great starting spot, so it's all about maintaining a good spot towards the front of tomorrow's race. The track is really smooth and it's great. I'm really excited for tomorrow night's race at Gateway."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It's a good day for the team obviously to have both cars in the top 11. Really wanted to qualify a little bit better than I did because we've been fast here in previous sessions. Just had a big moment in Turn 1 – the car was a little bit loose. We're starting quite a bit forward than we normally do, so that's a good thing. I think we've always had better cars in the race, so I'm excited for tomorrow night."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "The Arrow car feels really good – huge credit to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys for finding some extra speed. We didn't get the cleanest qualifying sims in practice, so we knew there was more in the tank. I wish we had gotten one of them in because knowing what I know now, if we had that in practice, we could have maybe snuck a little bit more out of it. That was certainly a solid run for us, and we're starting in front of some good Hondas, so hopefully we can stay in the sharp end of it and have a good race tomorrow."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "There's quite a bit of pressure qualifying first. I haven't been to a short oval in a while and one hour (of practice) just isn't enough to get up to speed. Altogether, every lap I think I'm learning something different. There was definitely not a lot of downforce commitment on our side because we wanted to keep it on the safe side, but it shows overall speed. I'm looking forward to see what's going to happen tonight."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "We had good balance in the Gallagher car today, and in qualifying, I gave it my best shot. In this situation you are where you are and we just did our job and kept things consistent. That's really all you can do here."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "I think this weekend is going to be pretty tough for us from what we saw at the test. I was second at the last test and the other manufacturer was still four or five tenths up the road. The problem is that for a short oval, the straight at Gateway is so long, and so I think it will be like Phoenix (where myself and teammate Tony Kanaan finished fifth and sixth), but a lot worse. But you know, I could be wrong. There have been times when I've been surprised how competitive we've been considering what we know about the aero kit deficit. I think we're one of the teams that knows the difference between the two kits through and through, and it's a huge downforce penalty and a ton more drag, so it's going to be a challenge."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "I'm not happy with that at all. We trimmed the car out quite a bit for qualifying and it just didn't come together like we thought it would. It didn't help that we went so early on in the qualifying order and the temperature dropped drastically once the sun went down about mid-qualifying, but regardless we just didn't have it today. We have a lot of work to do to the car for sure, but I'm excited to see what the car will do in practice tonight in race trim."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was awesome. Reaching 50 Verizon P1 Awards is a huge accomplishment for myself and my team. They always give me a strong setup going into qualifying for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy and they just continue to do a great job. We were lucky that we went out last which was a huge advantage since we share data throughout the team. We're really excited about tomorrow's race, especially starting from the front with all of my teammates right behind me."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "I'm very happy in general. I think it's our best qualifying run of the year on the ovals. Really happy to be in the top 10. I knew we had a good car from testing. We have one more practice to go so, we need to make some changes to improve it for the race tomorrow night."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): "I think the Fifth Third car has been strong in practice so far, we just didn't trim enough for qualifying. We got too conservative. We didn't anticipate the track gripping up like it did. The thing was too pinned in Turns 3 and 4, and our limit was to try to make sure it was on edge there and lift in Turns 1 and 2 and we weren't on edge at all. It was a good, solid run, though. We would have liked to have been a little bit quicker, but we will focus on the hour of practice time tonight and improve for the race."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda): "It was a disappointing qualifying run. I knew coming in that it was going to be somewhat difficult. I don't have the confidence and I didn't get a good read on the qualifying trim in our simulation run in practice, so we stayed a bit careful with the balance of the car and I wasn't aggressive enough with it. It's a bit of a shame. The guys did a really good job and the car is actually pretty good in race trim, so we'll see what we can do tomorrow."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I really like the track with the new pavement. It's smooth and a lot of fun to drive. The conditions changed so much with the temperature going down from practice and it really makes a big difference around here. We had a solid first practice, but we had a bit too much oversteer in qualifying. I had to save it a few times and it killed the speed a bit. The car wasn't like that in practice, but we should have a good race car for tomorrow and hopefully we can move forward."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "We're all still learning about this track. The first practice, that's all we were doing – just trimming and trimming, trying to go quicker. We missed on the gears in practice too, so we knew there was time left in the car coming into qualifying. Team Penske was just a little more aggressive than us when it came down to qualifying. This next practice session is going to be crucial as well. It's our last chance to really sort out our race downforce."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It's been a little bit tough just to hit the downforce level. The track is really good since they repaved it, we undershot on how fast we could go even at the trim level we were at. This morning's session was super hectic, everyone was running around in the draft and it was hard to see where you were at. The Fuzzy's Vodka boys did a really good job, the car feels really good. We'll be in good shape for the race."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "This is a high-commitment racetrack… in terms of top speed here is a lot slower than at Pocono, of course, but in terms of commitment it really helps the driver at the same time. I think the track got better and better as the sun set, but I think we should be happy under the circumstances with sixth and being the top Honda."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): "The car was pretty loose on our run; I had a pretty big moment and had to really work at it. We really went for it on aero balance, but it cut me out a little bit. We didn't stack up where we were hoping, but we went out early on. An early [qualifying order] draw is not in your favor as the track temps drop. But, the team has been working really hard and we'll do everything we can to fight our way through the field tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We tried to be pretty aggressive on the trim level; (the car) just got light on me a bit in Turn 1 and I had to pedal it, which just killed our lap average. On the second lap, I was able to carry quite a bit more throttle by making some adjustments in the cockpit, but it just wasn't enough. We were pretty early in the lineup and were hoping we'd settle out around seventh or eighth, not 14th. Hopefully we can have our short oval magic for the DHL car tomorrow. So, not the qualifying we were hoping for, but we certainly enjoy being back here at Gateway (Motorsports Park)."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "The track is just constantly changing, even from this afternoon's practice session to qualifying. With the new asphalt, the track is rubbering in almost every lap. The balance was pretty good on the No. 83 Tresiba Honda there in qualifying, so I was pretty happy with that. We just needed a little more speed that we couldn't find. We're right there with my teammate Tony (Kanaan), so we'll just see where we shake out."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): "I think the car is about there, but I think we missed a couple of positions. It was just an average run for me really, I mean Takuma (Sato) was sixth, so there was probably three spots of potential left in the No. 98. We knew it was going to be difficult with the other manufacturer, so we'll have to just capitalize on anything that comes our way tomorrow and make sure we don't make any mistakes. If we do that, we'll for sure move forward a couple spots."