FORT WORTH, Texas – Will Power’s only oval track victory in his IZOD IndyCar Series career came at Texas Motor Speedway in the second part of a Twin race format in 2011.
The Team Penske driver won the pole on Friday but he will be the first to admit it doesn’t give him an advantage in Saturday night’s Firestone 550.
“How can you ever be confident of a race win in this series?” Power asked. “When you get it that is when you can be satisfied. It’s so tough to get a race win these days. To get a top five I would be bloody happy because we’ve had such a bad start to the season.”
Power enters Saturday night’s race 16th in points, 82 behind the leaders Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti.
“These days you have one in 24 chance because that is how many cars are starting and there are so many good teams and drivers,” Power said. “To get a win here would be phenomenal. My wife is from here, all the family is coming out so if I don’t win here I’m probably not coming home for dinner.”
Power’s pole-winning speed of 219.182 miles per hour over two laps was the nearly 2 mph faster that second-place Marco Andretti, whose lap was 217.553 mph to give Chevrolet a sweep of the front row. Defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay gave Chevy a top three sweep with a two-lap average of 217.524 mph.
Dario Franchitti was the fastest Honda driver with a four-fastest speed of 217.504 mph with Chevy’s E.J. Viso giving Andretti Autosport three drivers in the top five at 217.244 mph.
It will be the first time in IndyCar history a race will be shown live in prime time on a major television network with the ABC telecast beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
The underlying story, however, is how the 24 drivers that will start Saturday night’s race feel about the aerodynamic package and tire combination that INDYCAR officials have implemented for this race. It is similar to last year with a few tweaks, including less drag with the same amount of downforce and a different tire. The less drag should increase speeds by 3 to 5 mph according to INDYCAR officials.
“I wouldn’t agree the tires are not grippy enough; the tires are only part of the equation,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition. “There is a car involved. If you replayed this thing last year there would be a lot of similar comments about this time of the day. We are monitoring it. There is a bit of a change to the downforce levels from last year. We have a whole new set of tires on the left side plus the compound is different. We don’t want to over-react but we are gathering data. The package is for the race so last year going in there were a lot of concerns going in and it turned out to be a really good race.
“Any time we take away downforce anybody hates it but they know we have to do it. You have to make those changes slightly and even though the increment is small it doesn’t take much to tip the balance.”
Firestone has brought a new tire but because INDYCAR officials want the tire to degrade over the course fuel run the left softs are a little softer with more grip while the right side tires are harder and more durable. That is designed to showcase driver skill, team preparation and tire management throughout the 228-lap race.
“I understand when we first went out the track was dusty and there was truck rubber on it and it was definitely slippery,” Power said. “I remember that being the case last year. When the rubber goes down and the night falls I think it will be fine. By the end of the session I thought it was about right.