By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. – Locking up the brakes heading into the Shelton Chicane during Saturday’s Firestone Fast Six cost Will Power a shot for his second straight Grand Prix of Portland pole.
Instead, he’ll start as the outside pole sitter for Sunday’s 105-lap race as the trailblazing rookie Colton Herta scored his second NTT IndyCar Series pole of 2019, beating Power by 0.0192 seconds.
“Not good. I flat spotted a tire and had a flat spot the next lap. It’s disappointing,” a dejected Power commented on his final round run. “We had a pretty good buffer on everyone. It should’ve been better.”
Behind Power are a pack of hungry drivers that range such as the title contenders, with only third-place starter Scott Dixon making the Fast Six. That meant neither of his Team Penske teammates (Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud) and Alexander Rossi made the last round of qualifying.
“It’ll be interesting how it plays out. It’s spices things up,” Power said. “Who knows what can happen, but we’ll be going for a race win.”
The penultimate round of the season is a crucial point of the season for those who are looking to find a full-time ride or in the case of fourth-place starter Jack Harvey of Meyer Shank Racing, expand their schedule next season.
Power heavily praised the 26-year-old Britain and hopes he can get a full-time ride to further prove how strong he’s been on the road courses.
“I think Jack would be a good guy to pick,” Power said. “I was thinking for McLaren it’s hard to find a driver right now, but every time Jack Harvey has been out on a road course recently, he’s been very strong. That’s a guy who needs a ride, a full-time ride, and he is performing each time he goes out.”
As disappointed Power was on not scoring pole, his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet was able to put on strong pace on both Firestone tire compounds as he was the fastest man during second round qualifying, advancing him into the Fast Six.
Power said the balance was good but hopes during the race he can put an entire package together and score his second win in the last three races.
I was good on both. Good balance, yeah, definitely couldn’t fault it. It was good,” Power said. “I just needed to put it together better there. Basically need to warm the brakes up a bit more. I grabbed the brake and flat spotted the tire. But apart from that, the car is good.”
Power expects it’ll be similar to Saturday’s conditions, ranging from high 70s to low 80s with skies being partly cloudy, with the tires taking rubber quite good. Therefore, a good chance of tire degradation happening as this year’s tires for Portland are similar to Mid-Ohio, resulting a small difference between the black and red compounds as a year ago, the reds had a favorable advantage.
“I think there will be some tire deg,” Power said. “It didn’t seem like that much last year so it’ll be an interesting race. Just because if there’s enough yellows then it goes into a two-stopper or fuel save. Will see how it all plays out.
“Firestone made the tires too close this year. Last year there was quite a difference between reds and blacks. Now to me they’re just a little too close, but maybe they degrade a different way. That always creates passing if you have a big difference between the two.”
Live coverage of the 26th annual Grand Prix of Portland begins at 3:00 pm EST on NBC. Takuma Sato is the defending race winner.