By David Morgan, Associate Editor
MADISON, Ill. – If there’s one constant in life, it’s that Will Power is very good at qualifying and winning poles.
At World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway he added to his legacy, capturing the pole for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – his 67th career pole – to move into a tie with the legendary Mario Andretti for the all-time lead.
As the points leader, Power rolled off last during Friday’s qualifying session, laying down a two-lap average of 182.727 mph to bump Marcus Ericsson from the top spot.
“There was nothing left on the table,” Power said of his run. “Just amazing. Amazing year so far. This is a big victory in a way for me to reach the 67 number and equal such a legend of the sport in Mario Andretti. Just can’t believe I’m right there with Mario because there’s been no one like him.”
Power added that he once thought Andretti’s record was insurmountable, but after winning back-to-back poles at Iowa earlier this season, the feat became more than a dream and on Friday, he made it a reality.
“When I got the double pole at Iowa, that’s when it became really realistic,” Power said. “The year before I had one pole. I think the year before that I had three. It was getting increasingly harder to get pole position. I was kind of thinking, This is going to be pretty hard to beat.
“But the double pole at Iowa was real key. Yep, great team, great engine, great crew. That’s what I’ve had. I’ve been lucky.”
Power’s Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin will line up second and third, respectively, followed by Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward, Takuma Sato, Romain Grosjean, and Devlin DeFrancesco to round out the top-10 fastest drivers.
Of the top-six drivers on the starting grid, all six are in the hunt for the championship. Something both front row starters noted showcases the strength of the field.
“It just shows no one’s letting up, no one will until the end,” Power said. “Pretty tight battle to the end. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds. All you can do is just do your best. Do your best. Can’t control some things, so see what happens.”
“I think it shows how competitive this series is,” Ericsson added. “Like you said, all the top guys are up there tomorrow. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough to battle it out, try and beat the guy next to me here. It’s going to be very tough.
“But we’re going to give it our best shot. I think we have three cars up there so we know we have a good package as well. Just try to do our best, race our race, see what we got.”
One change between the qualifying results and the actual starting grid comes from Grosjean, as his team was assessed a nine-place grid penalty on Friday morning for an unapproved engine change after the last race at Nashville, dropping him t0 18th. As a result, Alexander Rossi will move into the top-10 for the race.
Qualifying was slowed by one incident, as Felix Rosenqvist spun off of Turn 2 during his run, forcing him to start last in Saturday’s race.
Now that the field is set, all that remains is a half-hour high-lane practice from 7:00 to 7:30 pm ET, which will be run by a select number of drivers in an effort to rubber in the high lane. The full field will then hit the track at 7:45 pm ET for final practice to get their cars dialed in for the race.
Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is scheduled for 6:30 pm ET on USA Network.