PORTLAND, Ore. – Team Penske driver Will Power realizes he has to come up with IndyCar’s version of a Hail Mary to win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Even the driver from Toowoomba, Australia, knows what that is.
“That’s when you have to win up and go – whoosh – and throw that ball way down the field,” Power said.
For Power, the Hail Mary would be winning the final two races of the season and hoping for Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi to falter.
Power took the next step in that quest to erase the 68-point gap to Dixon by winning the pole Saturday for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Power won the pole in the Fast Fix round of qualifications with a lap at 57.3467 seconds around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile Portland Int’l Raceway road course at a speed of 123.292 mph.
It was the 54th pole of Power’s career, breaking a tie with A.J. Foyt for second on the all-time list of Indy car pole winners.
“Obviously to be up with names like Foyt, pretty special, humbling,” Power said. “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.
“When I started racing, I didn’t think I would ever break any record of AJ Foyt’s. I was always wondering at the end of every year if I’d even be racing the next year. It’s been an amazing drive and journey to get to this point, it really has. I’m very grateful for it.”
Andretti holds the all-time record with 67 poles in his career and Power could conceivably reach that number in his career.
The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion is more focused on trying to make a dramatic rally and come from behind to win the series championship. He won last Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” Power said. “You don’t know how degradation is, how quick you catch lappers. It’s a long race, three stops. There’s a lot that can be done strategy-wise.
“The end of the day we have to win. We have no shot at Sonoma if we don’t. We know that. We’ll take risks depending on the situation. But unpredictable. We’re aware that we have to finish not only ahead of Alex and Scott, but quite ahead. If they’re in the top three, it makes it very difficult for us.”
Power knows he has to win both races to close out the season and hope Dixon and Rossi have some issues in order to win the championship.
Starting on the pole Sunday at Portland Int’l Raceway is a good start.
“You can never plan a start,” Power said. “It will be what it will be basically. I just have to be aggressive. We need to be leading out of the first chicane, yeah.
“And then the pressure, it’s good. You have no choice. You’re not being conservative. You just know that the only mindset is absolute aggression, taking some risk strategy on the track. That’s the only way it’s going to work for us. It’s not a nice position.
“I’d rather be way up there in the championship. You know what you got to do simply.”
Team Penske teammate and defending IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was second quick at 57.6877 seconds (122.563 mph). He is fourth in points, 78 behind Dixon.
Dixon didn’t make the Fast Six and starts 11th after a 57.8554-second lap at 122.208 mph.
“It’s definitely not where we want to be,” Dixon said. “It’s a bit of a bummer there. I kind of misjudged the shift that we had from blacks to Reds (tires), but we also kind of got out-sequenced just when we tried to go early because we didn’t have a banker in there. It seemed like some of the other cars that had gone on Reds got in a banker, so we had to cover that.
“Then the 1 car (Newgarden) came out of the pits and kind of got in between Will (Power) and I, and I had to abort the first lap, then it kind of slowed the second. It’s just one of those things.
“We had the speed. Our time in Q1 would have converted us in Q2, and that was not a great lap. Just wrong sequencing there and got out of sync and unfortunately, we wound up where we were.
“We’ll see. It’s going to be tough here. Some of those other places were a little bit easier, but we got what we got.”
Alexander Rossi is second in points, 26 behind Dixon. He qualified third with a 57.7361-second lap at 122.461 mph.
“Clear traffic definitely helped,” Rossi joked. “I think we had a fast car. Just didn’t translate yesterday for not being able to get the lap in. So, yeah, I think all four of the cars have been competitive. Marco really has led the way for a lot of the weekend in terms of Andretti Autosport. We’ve all worked together.
“It was similar to Josef Newgarden, I think we’re all kind of on our own independent island in terms of setup, which is very unique for this place, has presented a challenge. We’re all very thankful for the test we had on Thursday.”
Sebastien Bourdais, who was the fastest driver in Saturday’s practice session before he crashed his car into the tire barriers, was able to rally back with to qualify fourth. Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top-five.