Might as well add Portland International Raceway to the list of Indy car tracks where Will Power has dominated qualifying.
Power had qualified seventh in his two previous races at this track – in 2006 and ’07 – and blitzing today’s Verizon IndyCar Series field gave him 25 tracks where he has won a pole.
Power set a new track record in the first round of knockout qualifying of 57.2143 seconds, eclipsing the previous record of 57.597 seconds set by Justin Wilson in 2005. In the Firestone Fast Six, Power posted a lap 0.3410 seconds quicker than his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. This was the third time in the past five qualifying sessions that Power won the Verizon P1 Award with Newgarden second.
If that wasn’t enough, Power cleared A.J. Foyt for second place in career Indy car poles. Power now has 54 career poles, with Foyt at 53. Mario Andretti leads all drivers with 67.
“I need to catch Mario, but I don’t think that will happen,” Power said, laughing. “That’s a lot of poles.”
GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND: Qualifying results
Power also took another step toward winning his second career series championship. The point for the pole moves him within 67 points of Scott Dixon with two races remaining. Power has a golden opportunity to gain on Dixon in Sunday’s race, as the Chip Ganassi Racing driver qualified 11th.
“At the end of the day we have to win (races),” Power said.
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who trails Dixon by 26 points, has a similar opportunity from the No. 3 starting position. But he, like Power, knows there is a reason the New Zealand driver is a four-time series champion.
“As I’ve always said, (Dixon) can start wherever and he’ll still (finish) in the front,” Rossi said.
That Dixon didn’t qualify well isn’t that much of a surprise. His average starting position this season in qualifying sessions is 8.4 and he has failed to start higher than ninth in the past three qualifying sessions.
Dixon started ninth at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and 13th at Pocono Raceway. But in those two aforementioned races, he finished fifth and third. He would take something of that nature – or better – in the season’s penultimate race.
Sebastien Bourdais bounced back from a crash at the end of the morning’s practice to qualify fourth. He had just turned the session’s fastest lap when he lost control in Turn 10 and slammed into the tire barrier with the rear of the car. The crew of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan repaired the car in less than three hours.
Bourdais said his crew benefitted from being a three-car entry at this race. Rookie Santino Ferrucci joins Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi, another rookie, in this race.
“Without three crews, I don’t think we would have been able to put the car (back) together,” Bourdais said. “It was an incredible effort to recover from my mistake.”
Andretti Autosport put three drivers in the Firestone Fast Six. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start from the fifth position and Zach Veach from sixth (a career best). Veach reached the final qualifying round for the first time this season.
This will be the first Indy car race at the 12-turn, 1.964-mile permanent road course since 2007. Sunday’s race broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Mazda Road to Indy race recap
The Mazda Road to Indy development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR has doubleheader weekends scheduled for all three levels at Portland. The first race in each series took place Saturday.
- Patricio O’Ward capped a dominating Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season Saturday by winning for the ninth time in 16 races. He held off Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta to secure the series title. The season concludes Sunday with a race at 12:55 p.m. ET.
- Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) won the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race by 1.3482 seconds over series champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing). Sunday’s race is at 5:15 p.m. ET.
- Kyle Kirkwood, who wrapped up the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship a month ago for Cape Motorsports, won the 25-lap race. Rasmus Lindh actually led the first lap, but Kirkwood passed him on Lap 2 and led the rest of the way for his 11th victory of the season. A win in Sunday’s 6:20 p.m. ET race would tie Kirkwood with JR Hildebrand (2006) for the series record for most wins in a season.