INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power was eventually go down as the best qualifier in NTT IndyCar Series history. The Team Penske driver currently has 58 poles to his credit. Only Mario Andretti has more. Power, is nine poles shy of tying Andretti for most ever.
What’s hard to fathom is, out of Power’s 58 pole trophies, none have occurred for the Indianapolis 500. Yes, he’s won three of the last four poles in the GP race on the road course, but he’s not won one on the oval. It won’t happen this year either for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Power, qualified with a four lap average of 229.701 mph in his No. 12 Chevrolet on his first run. He didn’t mince words following it either. The car just didn’t have it.
“No chance, “Power said of making the Fast Nine now. “We’ve got probably one of the slowest cars out there. It blows my mind that I’ve got so many poles at every other track and never here.
“I don’t know why.”
Power, went one qualifying spot after his teammate Josef Newgarden. He notes that he went lighter on downforce than the defending series champion, was flat out, but was slower. It was just puzzling.
What’s even more puzzling is, Power had an 11 year streak of qualifying in the Fast Nine here. In fact, he’s made 12 Indy 500 starts and 11 of them he’s started in the top 3 Rows. Furthermore, Power has started in the top nine in the previous six races run during the 2020 season and now he will roll off 17th next Sunday.
That’s baffling to me too.
Power, wasn’t all that surprised anyways because this is what he said on Friday.
“I don’t think we have that ultimate speed of some of the Honda cars,” said Power. “We have a consistent car. Yeah, it wasn’t massive changes, nothing that would change the speed of the car. If anything we did things that would slow it down as far as adding some more downforce.
“It’s just going to be real interesting tomorrow when everyone is in the same condition with no cars on track, no tow, to see where we truly do stack up. My feeling is that we’ll be lucky to get in the top nine. That’s how I feel. I think there’s just a lot of fast cars out there right now.
“I think the only thing on our side is maybe we can hold a lap time longer. That’s the saving grace.”
Power, will start a career nearly a career worst here in 22nd. His previous worst was 23rd in his rookie start in 2008.
Helio Castroneves will have a career worst start of 28th too. That’s saying something as the Brazilian has four poles here and a top 10 starting spot in 14 of his previous 19 starts. But, what’s going for him is, in two of his three wins, he did start outside of the top 10 (11th, 13th). Also, the race has been won from 28th twice before. Maybe a third for No. 3?
“Being on the second page (of the time sheet) isn’t what you want, but we are working on it,” said Castroneves. “We are going to find out if we can find a little bit and if not, we race the Pennzoil Chevrolet from there and we have a very good car. We’ve all been really happy with the cars in race trim. You hate to start that far back as you need to pass a lot of cars and use some strategy, but it can be done from there. I’m just excited to run in another Indy 500 and do our best to put on a show for all the fans watching at home.”
Josef Newgarden was the best of them in 13th while defending pole and race winner Simon Pagenaud starts 25th. That is also Pagenaud’s worst career Indy start while Newgarden will roll off outside of the top 10 for just the third time in nine tries.
“Judging from yesterday, the hotter it got, the more difficult it was for everybody,” said the defending series champion. “This early draw here was certainly beneficial for us and others that got it today.
“I think that was pretty much where are our car was today. We could practice for a touch more, but I think we were pretty close to our limit.”
Last year, Penske started 1-6-8-12. The year prior they were 2-3-4-8.
This year they’re 13-22-25-28.