In a rather unsurprising turn of events, Team Penske’s Will Power was quickest in Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session and will pace the field to green for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Picking up a pole award at his 25th different Indy car venue, Power set a track record at Portland International Raceway with a best lap time of 57.2143s, over three tenths of a second quicker than the next closest qualifer – teammate Josef Newgarden.
While Power has two races under his belt at the Oregon racetrack, the Aussie said prior experience really hasn’t played a factor this weekend.
“No, I can’t even remember that far back,” Power joked after qualifications. “I mean, it’s a very different track. A lot of grip, the car is different. But it’s a lot of fun. Really enjoying it out there. I think it’s the most grip we’ve had all year on a track. Cars are really hooked up.”
Considering the championship implications, Power’s pole is incredibly important to his team’s success on Sunday. Personally, though, it was a special moment for Power to clear A.J. Foyt for second place outright on the all-time IndyCar poles list.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously to be up with names like Foyt, pretty special and humbling,” said Power. “I need to catch Mario (Andretti) now. I don’t think that will happen, that’s a lot of poles. But, yeah, unbelievable. I would never have dreamed of being up there with names like A.J. Foyt.”
Hidden in the celebration was the fact that Power picks up a point on current championship leader Scott Dixon, as they are now separated by 67 points heading into race day.
Dixon will have a bit of work to do on the narrow Portland road course as the four-time IndyCar Series champion will roll off 11th on Sunday.
His nearest championship chaser is Alexander Rossi, and the NAPA Auto Parts driver will start 3rd tomorrow afternoon. Despite being a bit discouraged by the outright speed shown by Power, Rossi is searching for positives to build momentum heading into Sunday.
“I think at the end of the day, you have to take the good with the bad and it’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing because I don’t think our car had the pace that Will (Power) did, and he’s been kind of the car to beat all weekend and we’re struggling to find that extra little bit,” Rossi explained after qualifying.
“The positive is, obviously, we are ahead of Scott (Dixon), so we have to maximize that tomorrow as best we can. Hopefully, being on the inside for Turn 1 is a good thing because I know it’s definitely tight down there and it’s a long run down. On the outside, you are exposed and that’s not a good thing.
“Third is better than second, but definitely worse than first, so we’ll put our heads together and try to come up with a car to run up front.”
Rounding out the second row was Sebastien Bourdais, the French driver who qualified 4th after his team poured in some impressive work hours between final practice and qualifying.
Bourdais, the quickest driver in Friday morning’s practice, went off the track in Saturday morning practice and his car sustained substantial damage.
Amazingly, the crew was able to put everything together, allowing Bourdais to put things together in a way of his own by qualifying inside the Fast Six.
The final participants in the Firestone Fast Six included Ryan Hunter-Reay (P5) and Zach Veach (P6), a strong showing for Andretti Autosport and Honda.
The Grand Prix of Portland goes green at 2:30 PM ET (11:30 AM PT) on NBCSN as well as the IndyCar Radio Network.
Header image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR.