Will Power has returned to form. Fresh off his win five days ago at Pocono, the Australian driver earned his sixth pole of the season Friday night at Gateway Motorsports Park. It is the 50th career pole for Power, which ties him with teammate Helio Castroneves for third on the all-time list. The duo sits behind legendary drivers Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt.
Power took the top spot, but the entire Penske team was dialed in on Friday, as they swept the top four spots in qualifying. Championship points leader Josef Newgarden starts alongside Power on the front row, while Castroneves and reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud start in Row 2 tomorrow night. Ed Carpenter had a great qualifying effort, and will start 5th, while Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato starts from 6th position. Scott Dixon, Carlos Munoz, Alexander Rossi, and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top ten in qualifying on Friday evening.
Qualification Results for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500
While Penske dominated, Ganassi and Andretti Autosport struggled. Dixon, Sato, and Rossi had decent results, but their teammates didn’t have the same success. Ryan Hunter-Reay (14th) and Marco Andretti (20th) have some work to do, while Max Chilton, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball qualified 16th, 17th, and 18th respectively.
The best moment on Friday was seeing Sebastien Bourdais back in his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing machine. The veteran ace has fully recovered from the multiple hip and pelvis fractures he suffered in a crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 back in May, and will be racing in the final three events this season.
There are only three current drivers entered in this event that have previously raced at Gateway Motorsports Park. Castroneves has the most experience and success in an open-wheel car. He has led 219 laps in his five starts, finished runner-up in the 1999 and 2002 races, and won from pole position in the most recent race in 2003.
Dixon has just one start at Gateway, the 2003 race where he started 5th and led 78 laps before a gearbox failure ended his day. Kanaan has four starts at Gateway, where he started 3rd and finished 2nd in 2003 with Andretti Green Racing. He was part of an All-Brazilian podium with Gil de Ferran and Castroneves.
Newgarden leads Dixon by 18 points heading into tomorrow night’s event. Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power are all within 42 points of their Penske teammate. Keep in mind, the driver who has led the championship with three races to go has failed to win the championship in five of the last seven seasons.
The race distance is 248 laps, which is 310 miles around the 1.25-mile oval. Castroneves is the most recent pole winner and race winner, back in 2003. Coverage for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 begins at 9 PM ET on NBCSN.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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.”