NEWTON, IA — It’s an all Team Penske front row for not only Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR Series race at the Iowa Speedway but also Sunday’s too. That’s dangerous for the field with the organization having won 7 of the last 10 races on short ovals, including 4 of the last 6 at Iowa entering this weekend.
Josef Newgarden topped the timing charts with a speed of 177.782 mph in his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet on Lap 1 and 177.904 mph on Lap 2. A couple of qualifiers later, Will Power stole the show.
The Aussie was quickest in Friday’s practice, eclipsed the 178 mph barrier on both laps in going 178.199 mph on Lap 1 and 178.013 mph on Lap 2 to score his 65th and 66th career series poles in a span of 45 seconds. That moves him 1 shy of tying Mario Andretti for most ever. That also comes a week after Scott Dixon tied Andretti for the 2nd most wins (52) all-time.
“Yeah, it was messy,” Power said of his pole runs. “I was bottoming a lot, skipping up the track. I was surprised I was the quickest. I was wheeling it as much as you could. I was leaving nothing on the table.
“Yeah, there were 17s in the car, for sure. I just put everything into it, overdrove it a little bit. But, yeah, pretty good.”
Power had 1 pole all season and ironically enough it came at the site of next weeks race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Can he tie Andretti’s record next Friday?
It was a rough season for qualifying for Power anyhow. He entered having qualified outside the top 10 in 6 of the last 7 races including 5 straight. But, he had this track circled to get out of his slump with 3 of his last 4 poles now coming on short ovals.
“This qualifying session, all season, I was like, This is where I can really make some damage, I can really, really put myself in a position to get there,” Power said.
“That was a big step for me.
“Yeah, I could get a pole before the end of the year. Yeah, these two poles are key. I was thinking about ’em all season. Put a lot of focus on this race for that reason. If I got those two, it’s very realistic I could get that record.”
Newgarden says the difference in the pole for Power was due to Power qualifying after him. The information Power gained and having a little bit more grip on the .894-mile track was what gained him the top spot over his teammate.
Power didn’t necessarily agree saying that they have different cars and setups.
The duo shared the front row in 3 straight Iowa races now with Power having 6 front row starting spots in his last 7 races at Iowa and 5 poles here now overall. Newgarden has 4 straight front row starts here himself including 5 of the last 6.
The thing is, while Power has 18 wins from the pole in his career, none of them have come at Iowa. He finished 5th in 2010, 17th in 2013, 4th in 2017 and 6th in 2018. Power is 0-for-13 in general at Iowa.
Just 1 time in 15 races has the pole winner won here anyhow. Last time out, Simon Pagenaud came from the last row in Race 1 of the 2020 weekend while Josef Newgarden came from the pole a day later. There’s been 1 pole winner all year (St. Pete) and 1 in the last 11 overall.
That may set up both races nicely for Newgarden. In the 3 prior times the Tennessee native started 2nd here, he won in 2016, was 4th in 2018 and 5th in Race 1 of 2020. Each of the last 3 races on the season were won by a 2nd place starter.
Newgarden has led 111 or more laps in 5 of his last 7 Iowa starts including three wins, a pair of runner-ups, a fourth, fifth and sixth place result in the last eight tries. He’s also won 2 of the last 3 here as well as having scored 3 wins in the last 4 short oval races in general.
Power enters this weekend 35 points down in the standings but the guy he’s chasing, Marcus Ericsson, will start 12th and 15th respectively.
“You can’t think of that,” Power said of points racing now. “You just have to put your mind on the exact time you’re in. You just got to go and do what’s best at the time.
“Yeah, I’m hoping that this is a good weekend for us to catch Marcus because he’s very tough. He’s not the best qualifier, but he’s probably the best racer in the series, in my opinion. Just over the years watching him race, he’s one of the toughest guys. Like he’s very, very good at starting back there and making his way all the way to the front.
“Yeah, try to get some points on him. He’s no joke. He’s tough to beat.”
Conor Daly will start third in his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet on Saturday with a lap of 177.478 mph on Lap 1 and 4th on Sunday with a speed of 177.287 mph. He was 1st and 3rd respectively the last time out in 2020 and now has 4 straight starts in the top 2 Rows here.
Pato O’Ward (177.421 mph) and Scott McLaughlin (177.253 mph) rounded out the top 5 for Saturday’s starting lineup to give the Chevy camp a clean sweep of the top 5 starting spots.
Dale Coyne Racing was the top Honda team for Saturday’s race with David Malukas (176.932 mph) starting 6th and Takuma Sato (176.564 mph) in 9th. Malukas dropped on his 2nd lap though and will roll off 14th on Sunday. Sato was more consistent and will come from 5th tomorrow.
A day after Chip Ganassi Racing put all 4 of their cars in the top 10 P4-P6-P9-P10 in practice, they struggled. Their top qualifier for Race 1 is points leader Marcus Ericsson in 12th. Scott Dixon and Alex Palou will share Row 7 in starting 13th and 14th respectively. Jimmie Johnson starts 15th. For Sunday’s race, they’ll roll off P12 (Palou), P13 (Johnson), P15 (Ericsson) and P18 (Dixon).
Ganassi won 2 of the 1st 3 years here but has been 0-for-12 since.
That opens up a big weekend for the Penske camp in a sense that they have 3 of the top 7 in points and will start in the top 3 rows for each race (1-2-6 Race 1, 1-2-5 Race 2).
O’Ward has an outside chance too of gaining some ground. He enters this weekend 75 points back of Ericsson for the points lead and starts 4th and 8th respectively. O’Ward was 4th here in Race 1 in 2020 and has been great in Gateway (3rd, 2nd, 2nd) too.
Colton Herta (177.525 mph) qualified 3rd for Sunday’s race but will likely go to the back due to an engine change coming. He improved nearly 3 mph between Lap 1 and Lap 2 but that’s all due to him taking it too easy on the warmup lap he said.