AUSTIN, Texas – One of the cruelest tricks played in the NTT IndyCar Series comes in Firestone Fast Six qualifications on street and road courses.
Usually a driver gets the fast speed and takes the pole just as the checkered flag waves, but often, a few more drivers on track are allowed to complete their final lap.
Many times, one of those drivers is Team Penske’s Will Power, and Saturday at Circuit of the Americas it was Alexander Rossi’s turn to get “Powered” in Fast Six qualifications.
Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was the fastest as the checkered flag waved with a time of 1:46.1761 (115.619 mph) around the 3.41-mile, 20-turn COTA road course, but Power was still on track and his Chevrolet was gaining speed in different sectors on the race course.
When Power completed his lap that began before the checkered flag waved, it closed at 1:46.0177 (115.792 mph), which was good enough for the 56th pole of his IndyCar Series career.
Mario Andretti is the career leader in poles with 67.
Of note, if Power wins Sunday’s IndyCar Classic from the pole, he will collect a $100,000 bonus from COTA.
Earlier this week, Power sent a video on his social media detailing an epidemic that has hit IndyCar driver’s wives – the number of packages that show up every week from Amazon Prime.
There is no truth to the rumor that Power’s wife, Liz, is going to use his portion of $100,000 on future Amazon Prime purchases, but Power’s latest pole was like an eBay sniper: someone who waits until just a few seconds are left on an item and then wins the auction before anyone else can place another bid.
“It’s just getting it done,” Power said. “You go out there, you know what the car is going to do on used tires, and you get the most out of it. That’s what we were trying to do.
“We literally went on green, came in for fuel and went. We were going to give ourselves the best chance to win the pole and that is what we did,” he added. “I like to keep the young blokes honest. They come in here and are all pretty good. I get out there and do the job. I have so much experience, I know what I need to do, and I do it each week.”
Power scored his second pole of the season in the season’s second race.
Rossi kept to his approach, but figured Power and Team Penske would be up to something on that final lap.
“Our normal approach to Fast Six is just go out and do one lap to preserve tires, (because) if you end up needing to use them in the race, especially coming out of lap one … but that was nothing out of the ordinary for us,” Rossi explained.
Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was third at 1:46.1761 (115.460 mph) in a Honda.
Two rookies following, including 19-year-old Colton Herta’s 1:46.3594 (115.420 mph) and 27-year-old Swede Felix Rosenqvist’s 1:46.5680 (115.194 mph), both in Hondas.
Five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon rounded out the Fast Six at 1:46.9375 (114.796 mph) in a Honda.
Josef Newgarden, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10, missed the Fast Six and starts seventh.
Tony Kanaan starts last in the 24-car field.
There are $100,000 worth of reasons for Power to score another victory on Sunday. Sixteen of his 35 career victories have come from the pole.
“It’s time to win another one,” Power quipped. “It’s disappointing when you win the pole and can’t complete the sweep. I didn’t have as good a car on new tires.
“I’m really happy to get poles. I never held my breath so much. Really had to dig deep, but yeah, it was a good battle.”