How many plays on words can one make on the name of Team Penske driver, WILL POWER? The slender and somewhat shy Aussie has won three straight races this year in the Izod IndyCar Series, and just scored this third consecutive pole position/fifth career pole – this time at the 36th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Power turned a lap of 1:09.3185/102.206 mph. He had the LBGP pole last year and finished fourth.
Power managed to put more than four-tenths of a second between he and second fastest driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY.
Then, the field got really compacted. Third through fifth were JUSTIN WILSON/No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold; HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske; and RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske…all within three-tenths second. Rounding out the FFS was TONY KANAAN/No.11 Andretti Autosport.
One of the things to which Power attributed his pole was the importance of using his black tires first, saving the reds for the last/FFS round. “You’ve got to take the risk to get through on the blacks. They take longer to come on, but actually they’re pretty quick. They’re good. The reds were really hooked up today.”
Power admitted to being surprised he made it into the FFS. “I hit the wall hard coming out of Turn Eight, hitting it square. But these things can take a licking and keep on ticking.”
RICK MEARS as his spotter is Power’s new secret weapon this season.
Only 1.6 seconds separated Power from the Rookie MARIO ROMANCINI/No.34 Conquest Racing in twenty third. The last to qualify was his teammate, Rookie BERNARD BAGUETTE/No.36, in P24. MILKA DUNO/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing opted not to qualify. Calls to her PR rep were unanswered.
All three Team Penske drivers made the Firestone Fast Six – second time for them since the concept was launched in 2007. But what was perhaps the biggest surprise of the FFS was that for the first time ever since 2007 there was no Chip Ganassi cars. Of the three drivers who have raced for CGR – SCOTT DIXON and DARIO FRANCHITTI-who won the 2009 LBGP, plus DAN WHELDON, at least one has been in the FFS every single race.
All of the current FFS drivers had about the same thing to say – shows how competitive is the field this season, and how one slight misstep can cause hero to be zero.
The fastest female and top Rookie (of five) was SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/No.78 HVM Racing, in P9.
The other female driver this weekend, DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Autosport will start twentieth, with Duno being last on the grid with No Time. The third IndyCar female driver, SARAH FISHER is a team owner also, and this weekend her car is being driven by GRAHAM RAHAL/No.67, starting twenty-second.
For Sunday’s race, 22 of the 25 drivers will start the race on reds – the softer, option tire. Those who will start on blacks are RAFAEL MATOS/No.2 Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports; Patrick; and Romancini.
The 85-lap IndyCar race broadcast will start live at 12:30 PM local/PDT-3:30 PM ET on VERSUS (which will again include those customers who have DirectTV, after a recent settlement.) The Green Flag drops at 1:15 PM/4:15 PM.