Will Power wins the pole for tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, INDYCAR Radio Network) my thoughts

MADISON, Ill — Finally. That gasp of fresh air if Will Power as he has earned his first pole of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season. He’s won a pole every year since 2009 and now trails the great Mario Andretti by just four top qualifying spots for most in series history.

Power, circled the World Wide Technology Raceway with a two-lap average of 180.618 mph to earn his second straight front row starting spot and fourth top four starting spot in the last five races. He’s won three poles on the 1.25-mile track now but neither of his other two poles resulted in a win here. He has won 18 times from the pole, which is tied with Sebastien Bourdais for third most only behind Andretti’s 24 and AJ Foyt’s 23.

This is also the middle of a Power surge again. He’s ended the years hot and he’s in the midst of another strong ending again I feel.

Colton Herta (180.528 mph) will start alongside in his No. 26 Honda. This is Herta’s fifth front row starting spot in the last six races including four of which being second. He’s had a front row starting spot now in seven of the 13 races this season but only one victory to show for it. In fact, when he’s started second, he’s finished 16th, 4th, 2nd and 13th respectively.

Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (180.509 mph) and Simon Pagenaud (180.368 mph) will share Row 2 while Pato O’Ward (179.894 mph) rounds out the top five.

  • It was a much better qualifying session for the Penske’s. All four drivers will start in the top half of the field with Will Power (1st), Josef Newgarden (3rd), Simon Pagenaud (4th) and Scott McLaughlin (11th). For Power, this was the fifth time in the last seven races that he started in the top seven. Newgarden, finally got back into the top 10 after earning three straight poles only to be followed by qualifying efforts of 12th and 14th respectively the last two weeks. For McLaughlin, this was his best start in the last seven tries. Six of his last seven qualifying efforts were 17th or worse.
  • Pato O’Ward said that they’ve found something in the month long break and he’s right. He won the pole last week and was fifth on Saturday. These are his best starting spots since his pole in Belle Isle 1. Same for his teammate Felix Rosenqvist. He had his best starting spot all season in Nashville and has his second best today. That’s 2-for-3 since the break as he’ll roll off 10th tonight.
  • Alexander Rossi’s qualifying efforts have vastly improved. Since the Indy 500, he’s qualified in the top 10 in eight straight races. He was in the top 10 in one of the prior five.
  • Graham Rahal finally had a solid qualifying outing. Five of his last seven tries were 11th or worse including three of his last four being 13th or further back. This time, Rahal qualified in the top 10 for only the fifth time all year but all have been eighth or worse too though. He was fourth in practice and has taken all but three of his starts this season to a top seven result in the race. He’s in striking distance for another top five later tonight. His teammate in Takuma Sato’s qualifying woes continue as he will come from outside the top 15 for the 11th time in 13 races this year.
  • Ed Carpenter Racing was surprisingly off so far. They took two the bottom 3 spots in practice earlier and were in the same positions in qualifying. Rinus VeeKay was 22nd in practice with Ed Carpenter last and in qualifying it flipped with Carpenter in 22nd and VeeKay 23rd.
  • AJ Foyt Racing also struggled. They were 21st and 23rd respectively in practice and 19th (Sebastien Bourdais) and 24th (Dalton Kellett).
  • We’ve seen 7 straight Gateway winners coming from a top five starting spot and five of the last seven from the top three at that.
  • Pole winners bad luck – You would think with track and starting position mattering in Indy Car these days, the top starting spot would be the ones in victory lane more times than not. Instead, they’re not. In the last 26 races run, the pole winner has won just five times. In fact, if you go back to last year and take the last 35 races, the pole winner has won only seven times. The second place starter has won just four times in that span too.
  • Qualifying lineups were the factor again. Out of the bottom 10 qualifiers in the order, 8 of which will start in the top 10 including the 15th and 18th qualifiers on the line sharing the front row. Row 2 was the 21st and 17th qualifiers out with the 23rd and 20th qualifiers sharing Row 3.
  • Alex Palou qualified 12th but due to a grid penalty he will start 21st. That’s good news for his competitors for the championship but not for him. O’Ward starts fifth, Dixon in eighth, Newgarden in third and Ericsson in sixth.

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