ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Will Power wasn’t shocked that his Team Penske teammate of Scott McLaughlin beat him to the pole for Sundays Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
“No, it’s not surprising,” he said. “You saw it in practice last year. He just had a few issues in qualifying getting through the rounds a couple times. But the potential was there.
“He’s been at a very high level in a very competitive series for quite a few years, so he knows the game. He knows the game well. He knows the car now. You really expect him to be there every time.
“I mean, man, the experience he had in the series down there in Australia, he’s had a number of years at a very high level as. He knows how to put it together. It’s just a matter of him getting used to this car which he has now, and yeah, I’m expecting him to be a contender for the season.”
McLaughlin, 28, topped the pole master and teammate, Power, to earn the pole for Sunday’s 2022 season opener. The Team Penske driver circled the 14-turn race track with a time of 59.4821-seconds under the bright blue Florida skies on a warm Saturday afternoon to score his first career pole.
Power, went 59.6058-seconds and earned his seventh front row starting spot in the last eight years here.
“Well, it’s just much better than last year,” he says. “Last year was P20, so here’s to starting further up the front and hopefully the first corner is good. Many names went through my head who were behind me then. I’m like, there’s some potential for a bit of mayhem there.
“I was very happy up until the last run. I was like P1, P1, P1, P2. But it was good. Like honestly, I feel like I got the most out of the session. I guess there’s not much I could have done. What I could have done in the last one was to fuel for just one lap and may have had a shot. But yeah, like I said, starting way ahead of last year at this track.”
But, it also kept him out of the record books.
Power enters 2022 with 63 career poles. He’s four shy of tying Mario Andretti for most all-time. On Saturday, he was only .2 seconds from No. 64.
Power, broke the track record in the first round and then topped his own record in Q2. But, it was his teammate Scott McLaughlin, not he, on the pole for Sundays race as McLaughlin narrowly topped Power for the top spot in qualifying on Saturday.
“Poles keep eluding me down to this last like five that I need,” said Power. “After that I don’t care about pole.”
Power, won five poles in 2020, three in 2019 and four more in 2017. He won six poles in 2016.
“I want 68,” he said. “68, yeah. I know it’ll be tough. A lot of good guys.”
Power, who was in the top five of both practices this weekend, said he lost the pole in Turn 9.
“Yeah, 9, that’s where on my first lap I lost time is out of 9. I probably lost a tenth down the back straight.
“Yeah, apart from that it was a pretty good lap. That’s the only place where I overcharged the entry a little bit and didn’t get the ideal exit. Yeah.”
Now, he goes for his third win in the annual season opener.