Will Power wins two poles, close to Mario Andretti

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NEWTON, Iowa — Long before he knew he’d be in contention for the IndyCar title at age 41, just 35 points off the lead with seven races to go, Will Power had this Iowa Speedway double weekend on his schedule. Completed 5e-5e-9e in the race for the Astor Cup the previous three years, the Team Penske driver could not have known that he would start his 2022 campaign with a level of consistency he had never seen in his career.

But racking up poles and getting closer to Mario Andretti’s IndyCar record of 67? It was well within reach, and after sweeping the pole pair for this weekend’s 250 and 300 lap races on the short 7/8 mile oval, Power came close to one of the best of all time.

“I watched that qualifying session all season. I knew, “This is where I can really do damage. I can really put myself in a position to make it happen,’ so that was a big step for me,” Power said on Saturday morning minutes after landing poles No. 65 and 66 of his career. “It was messy. The car bottomed out a lot and jumped around the track, and I was surprised to be the fastest, but I got it rolling as much as I could.

“I left nothing on the table. I just put everything in there and pushed it a little too much. I feel like you have to start in the top 10 to have a good race. Cars can fall a lot, so you can take positions, but leading is obviously easier because you can pit other people. It’s a good place to be.

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In Saturday’s qualifying session, the drivers’ first lap set the grid for Race 1 and Lap 2 for Race 2. Power snagged both poles from teammate and three-time Iowa winner Josef Newgarden with laps 0.417mph faster on Lap 1 and 0.109mph faster on Lap 2. The order of qualifying was set upside down from the current points standings, and Conor Daly held double pole for six cars and pole race 1 for 10. Ed Carpenter Racing driver will start 3rd and 4e this weekend, respectively.

Notable starting positions for Race 1 include: Pato O’Ward (4e6e in points), Scott McLaughlin (5th, 7e in points), Marcus Ericsson (12e1st in points), Scott Dixon (13e5e in points), Alex Palou (14e3rd in points), Jimmie Johnson (15e) and Colton Herta (17e). Starting positions for Race 2 include: Herta (3rd), McLaughlin (6e), O’Ward (8e), Palou (12e), Johnson (13e), Ericsson (15e) and Dixon (18e).

As important as poles are to Power’s pursuit of Andretti, starting from pole hasn’t always meant a ton – both for IndyCar in Iowa and IndyCar lately. In the previous 15 races in Iowa, only one poleman has won – Newgarden in the most recent race here, Race 2 in 2020. Five times the winner has come from outside the top 10, and in the race 1 of 2020, Simon Pagenaud won from last place (23rd). More than half of IndyCar Iowa winners (eight of 15) have started from the front two rows. In 10 races in 2022, the only poleman to win was Scott McLaughlin in the season opener from St. Pete. Bothn/a-place starter has won five times this year, including in each of the last three races.

For Power, the pair of poles has the worst qualifying race of his career, having started outside the top 10 in every race since his first pole of the year at the GMR Grand Prix (11e16e15e21st and 16e).

“You can’t predict things here, but starting out on top is fine,” Power said. “The one lap pace doesn’t mean a lot for this race, but I feel like our pace on the long stints is really good. If we have a smooth race, I really hope we’ll be fair. before.

Marcus Ericsson leads the IndyCar Series points

For him, this weekend is still too early to think about positioning himself for the championship, despite a gap of 35 points on Ericsson with seven races to go. Power has marveled at the Ganassi rider’s consistency over the past year-plus, where he has put up an average finishing position of 7.4 over 20 starts.

“It’s no joke, he’s hard to beat,” Power said of Ericsson. “But I hope it’s a good weekend to catch up with him. He’s very tough. He may not be the best qualifier, but he’s probably the best rider in this series in my opinion. He’s one of the toughest guys, and he’s very, very good at starting there and working his way up to the front.

“But you can’t think too much about the championship yet. You just need to focus on the exact time you are. You can’t think of points. You just have to do what’s best at the time.

With his lead, Ericsson said on Friday he was starting to take a different approach in the final third of the year.

“You start to get it a bit in the back of your head. It’s a fine line, because if you start thinking about it too much and being too smart, you’re going to put yourself in a bad position,” Ericsson said. “We’ve had such a good race over the last year and a half that I don’t want to change the way we do things. I think we don’t have to bet on a big result, like we’re 80 points behind right now. There you have to win races, and I always feel like we have to win a race or two before this thing is over to win the championship, but we’re not the ones who have to take the biggest chances to get there.

“We have to have strong weekends and be in the lead, and if we do that we will be in good shape. We don’t need to be the first to play this weekend. We don’t have to do everything to win the race. We can be smart and aggressive in races, but we don’t have to play. It’s my state of mind. We gotta go out there and max out, but we don’t have to throw a 5e-place because we have to win.

IndyCar Qualifying, Race 1 at Iowa

(Qualifying position, car number, driver, chassis/engine/tyres, time, speed; D-Dallara, C-Chevrolet, H-Honda, F-Firestone)

1. (12) Will Power, D/C/F, 18.0607 (178.199 mph).

2. (2) Josef Newgarden, D/C/F, 18.1031 (177.782).

3. (20) Conor Daly, D/C/F, 18.1341 (177.478).

4. (5) Pato O’Ward, D/C/F, 18.1399 (177.421).

5. (3) Scott McLaughlin, D/C/F, 18.1571 (177.253).

6. (18) David Malukas, D/M/F, 18.1900 (176.932).

7. (45) Jack Harvey, D/M/F, 18.2167 (176.673).

8. (21) Rinus VeeKay, D/C/F, 18.2216 (176.626).

9. (51) Takuma Sato, D/M/F, 18.2279 (176.564).

10. (28) Romain Grosjean, D/M/F, 18.2378 (176.469).

11. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, D/C/F, 18.2595 (176.259).

12. (8) Marcus Ericsson, D/M/F, 18.3026 (175.844).

13. (9) Scott Dixon, D/M/F, 18.3207 (175.670).

14. (10) Alex Palou, D/M/F, 18.3667 (175.230).

15. (48) Jimmie Johnson, D/M/F, 18.3693 (175.205).

16. (15) Graham Rahal, D/M/F, 18.4166 (174.755).

17. (26) Colton Herta, D/M/F, 18.4183 (174.739).

18. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, D/M/F, 18.4254 (174.672).

19. (27) Alexander Rossi, D/M/F, 18.4488 (174.450).

20. (30) Christian Lundgaard, D/M/F, 18.5297 (173.689).

21. (60) Simon Pagenaud, D/M/F, 18.5581 (173.423).

22. (77) Callum Ilott, D/C/F, 18.5588 (173.416).

23. (33) Ed Carpenter, D/C/F, 18.5599 (173.406).

24. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, D/C/F, 18.6436 (172.628).

25. (06) Helio Castroneves, D/M/F, 18.6647 (172.432).

26. (4) Dalton Kellett, D/C/F, 18.7049 (172.062).

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