WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest IZOD IndyCar qualifier Friday hot afternoon at Auto Club Speedway, for Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 race. His time was 220.775 mph. As Power is still on Engine #5, he incurs no grid position penalties and starts on pole.
Regarding team orders and helping Castroneves win the Driver’s Championship, Power said “I will do what can do to help Helio – make it easy for him to get by. He needs to lead the most laps. I want him to have a good race.” Having said that, Power’s wistful words were “I really want to win this race here, after last year’s problem, and if it works out, I will. This has been a good year finding my weaknesses. I’m glad I had a bad year. I’m better. I’m on goal. Hats off to AJ for being third after five months out of the car.”
If Power does win the race, he’ll clinch the Manufacturer’s Championship for Chevrolet.
It was Penske Party on the front row – at least until the Starting Grid is set for Saturday’s night race. HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 and AJ ALLMENDINGER/No.2 were second and third fastest, respectively. No team orders there. Power took the pole bonus point, depriving Castroneves of a point to close the gap between he and points leader, SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Honda. Dixon qualified seventh and faces a ten grid-position penalty for being on Engine #6. His words: We’ll see how the race goes. We kinda focused on the race setup.”
Castroneves was ninth in the queue and was on top until Power went out – 17th in the lineup. Castroneves is on Engine #6, so he will drop to P12 for the race start. He said “We’ll race as hard as we can and I really want to win after last year. The plan is working.” He added, “At the end of the day we have two turbos on the car – one in the engine and one from the movie on the paint job.”
Allmendinger said “It was really cool for me to be back in the car. My teammates have helped me a lot.”
Fourth through tenth fastest were SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/No.7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet, CHARLIE KIMBALL/No.83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, JAMES JAKES/No.16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Dixon, MARCO ANDRETTI/No.25 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, ED CARPENTER/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.
Top/only Rookie was TRISTAN VAUTIER/NO.55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda who was twentieth fastest.
Dale Coyne Racing Honda teammates JUSTIN WILSON/No.18 and PIPPA MANN/No.19 will start at the back of the pack for the race – Mann for her morning problem, and Wilson for his problem in qualifying and not completing his lineup. Also back with them will be TAKUMA SATO/No.14 AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda, for his morning problem.
Rookie ZACH VEACH/No.12 Andretti Autosport has the pole for Saturday’s Lefty’s Kids Club 100 Firestone Indy Lights Race. His lap was 1:16.0831/189.267 mph, and was his first-ever Indy Lights pole position. The 18-year old driver said “This year has had a lot of learning experiences for us but for us to get the pole the last race of the season, it says that we’ve learned a lot and hopefully we can do a lot better tomorrow in the race and carry that momentum in the offseason. I’m really excited with this being the last race with Firestone and to be able to say I won a pole with Firestone is going to be something really honorable for me.”
Second fastest Lights driver was Veach’s teammate, CARLOS MUNOZ/No.26. Afterwards, his input was eagerly and seriously considered before he turned around and was the third qualifier in the IndyCar lineup. Among those in the discussion was Munoz’s Andretti teammate in the IndyCar team – JAMES HINCHCLIFFE.
Third fastest in the Lights qualifying was Rookie GABBY CHAVES/No.7 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb/Agajanian. Current points leader, Rookie SAGE KARAM/No.8 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian was seventh fastest.
All nine Indy Lights driver qualified, a field which boasts six Rookies.
Saturday’s Indy Lights 50-lap race starts at 2:30pm local time/5:30pm ET. It will be broadcast tape delayed at 7pm ET on NBCSN.
The 250-lap MAVTV IndyCar race currently is scheduled to start at 5:45pm, but because of concerns about sunlight in driver’s eyes, a different time is being considered. Stay tuned. The Indycar race will be broadcast live starting at 8pm ET on NBCSN.