By David Morgan, Associate Editor
MADISON, Ill. – Will Power has gotten the weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway started off on the right foot, leading the way in the Friday’s first practice session.
Power turned a lap around the 1.25-mile oval in 24.925 seconds (180.539 mph) to jump to the top of the board in his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, just ahead of defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou.
“We just worked on qualifying, I think, like everyone else,” Power said of the team’s strategy in the hour-long session. “Obviously it’s ridiculously close. I think a lot of people have good cars, but mine feels really good right now, so looking forward to qualifying.”
Felix Rosenqvist timed in third fastest, followed by Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, Pato O’Ward, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, and Scott Dixon rounding out the top-10.
Power comes into the weekend as the points leader, holding a slim six-point advantage over Dixon, but acknowledged that things can change on a dime over the course of the next three races, including Saturday at Gateway.
“It’s at the point where everything matters,” Power said of the championship battle. “That’s how I’m racing. It flips so quickly, you race accordingly.
“In a great position. Haven’t been in this position for quite a while, so happy to be there, looking to finish this thing off real strong.”
A handful of other drivers are hot on the heels of Power and Dixon, hoping to be the one hoisting the championship trophy at season’s end. Behind the two leaders sit Ericsson, Newgarden, Palou, McLaughlin, and O’Ward – all within striking distance of the points lead.
In fact, the 59-point separation from first to seventh makes this year’s title fight the closest in the past 20 years.
“I think it just shows how competitive the championship is. No one is dominating,” Power said.
“It’s just a super tight championship. I think the consistency thing, the points really reward top four finishes, and after that it really drops off. It’s important to continually finish up there.
“There’s no series like it in the world. I mean, you just got to look at qualifying every week, you got to look at the time gap from first to last every week. There’s not a series as tight as this, as tough as this. It’s showing with six guys still in the game with three to go.”
Power will look to keep up the speed with qualifying next up on the docket at 4:15 pm ET, where he will be gunning for his 67th career pole. Following qualifying, a 30-minute practice session will take place at 7:00 pm ET in an effort to rubber in the high lane, followed by final practice at 7:45 pm ET.