FORT WORTH, Texas – Team Penske obviously knows how to succeed at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval as Helio Castroneves has won four Verizon IndyCar Series races at the high-banked oval.
Teammate Will Power can admit to having professional envy of Castroneves’ success at Texas and took a step toward a win in Saturday night’s Firestone 600 by winning the pole Friday.
Power ran a two-lap average of 218.896 mph in a Chevrolet to score his second Verizon P1 Award of the season. He also won the pole at Barber Motorsports Park last month. It’s the 34th pole of Power’s Indy car career giving him sole possession of sixth on the all-time list.
He passed Dario Franchitti on that list with Friday’s pole.
“I could see that people were dropping off a lot on the second lap,” Power explained. “It was a bit loose for me on the first lap there. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do the next time around. But I was able to pretty much stay flat for the two laps. I was actually surprised with the speed with the first lap, 19.7, pretty good. It’s a great start to the weekend. I’m very focused on the race.
“Last year Helio was very strong, so I’m kind of trying to get a car that good for the race if I can.”
Power will start alongside Josef Newgarden as the driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing put his Honda on the front row with a two-lap average of 217.835 mph.
“I was happily surprised to be honest with you,” Newgarden admitted. “We worked mainly on race stuff this morning. We only had an hour in the morning, then 30 minutes this evening. There’s not much time to run for the race. Especially around Texas now, the tire degradation is so high. I think it’s going to be better this year, not as much of a drop-off. The name of the game is to figure out how to reduce the tire degradation.
“We focused at that, threw something at it for qualifying. We didn’t go super conservative, we didn’t go all the way to the edge. But the car was just really fast. I don’t know if it’s that it looks so good that it was fast. It was really good, really balanced. The team just did a great job. I’m really pleased.
“Normally when you have a quick car that handles good in qualifying, normally it’s too easy. That bodes well for the race. I hope that’s true for us.”
IndyCar officials have allowed teams to add up to 300 more pounds of downforce to the Dallara chassis in an attempt to make Saturday night’s race better than the snooze fest that occurred last year when Castroneves drove to victory. The extra downforce is combined with a Firestone Firehawk tire that degrades over the course of a fuel run which should make Saturday’s race an up-and-down affair in terms of fast cars dropping off over the course of a fuel stint.