MONTEREY, Calif. - Will Power wrote a new chapter of IndyCar Series history one day before he could enter his name in the sport’s annals as a series champion for the second time.
Power broke Mario Andretti’s all-time record with his 68th career pole Saturday during pole qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
Power, 41, from Toowomba, Australia, drove to his series-leading fifth pole this season in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, burnishing his legend and starting from the perfect position as the series championship leader entering the season finale Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“It’s such a big day tomorrow that I can’t celebrate much because I’ve got to be so focused on tomorrow,” Power said. “Tremendous milestone. To be out there with an iconic guy like Mario is amazing. When I think about the era he raced in, how dangerous it was and how much more of a risk it was, it just blows my mind I’m there with Mario.”
“Awesome. I know how much I loved qualifying, and I can see he’s the same,” said Andretti. “Trying to reach and trying to do the lap you know you cannot repeat. That’s what puts you on pole. It (losing record) was coming. It’s beautiful. It’s great for the series and the sport. Records are made to be broken, and it’s with a good man.”
Power’s best lap in the Firestone Fast Six was 1 minute, 11.6127 seconds. Rookie Callum Ilott will join him in the front row of the 95-lap race Sunday after qualifying a career-best second at 1:11.6320.
The pole gave Power more than just a big piece of history. He also will be awarded one bonus point when the race starts Sunday, which could be pivotal as he looks to preserve his 20-point lead over Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and win a second season championship to accompany his 2014 title. Marcus Ericsson (-39) of CGR and Scott McLaughlin (-41) of Team Penske also are eligible to win the championship Sunday.
Power was the only member of the title-contending quintet to advance to the Firestone Fast Six, creating an even clearer path for his championship hopes on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track where passing is difficult due to the challenging layout and low-grip, highly abrasive surface.
McLaughlin was the best of the rest among the title contenders, qualifying eighth at 1:11.6916 after going off track in turn 4 during the second round of qualifying. Ericsson qualified 10th after spinning in the famous “Corkscrew” turn during the second round, ending up with a best lap of 1:12.1359.
Dixon and Newgarden will have plenty of work to do to win the Astor Challenge Cup on Sunday after neither driver advanced from the first round.
Dixon will start 13th after his best lap of 1:12.1722. Dixon and every other driver besides Newgarden in the first qualifying group of the first round were forced into a one-lap showdown for position when Newgarden triggered a red flag, lost his two quickest laps and chance to advance by clouting a curb in the “Corkscrew” and spinning off the course.
Newgarden will start 25th in the 26-car field.
Among the other four drivers in the Firestone Fast Six, Alexander Rossi qualified third at 1:11.7698, with Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean fourth at 1:11.7858.
Alex Palou, whose reign as series champion has one more day, qualified fifth at 1:12.1625. Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:12.4542.
Ilott was the top rookie qualifier but already is eliminated from Rookie of the Year contention. The two drivers competing for that honor, David Malukas and Christian Lundgaard, qualified seventh and 16th, respectively. Lundgaard leads Malukas by five points in the standings.
NTT IndyCar Series
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Monterey, CA
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey – September 10, 2022
Saturday’s Qualifying Results
1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:11.6127 (112.505)
2. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 01:11.6320 (112.475)
3. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:11.7698 (112.259)
4. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:11.7858 (112.234)
5. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:12.1625 (111.648)
6. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:12.4542 (111.199)
7. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:11.6295 (112.479)
8. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:11.6916 (112.381)
9. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:11.7285 (112.324)
10. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:12.1359 (111.689)
11. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:12.2808 (111.465)
12. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:12.8856 (110.540)
13. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:12.1722 (111.633)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:12.1442 (111.676)
15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:12.2661 (111.488)
16. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:12.2093 (111.576)
17. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:12.4299 (111.236)
18. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:12.2720 (111.479)
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:12.5970 (110.980)
20. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:12.2996 (111.436)
21. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:12.8366 (110.615)
22. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:12.4489 (111.207)
23. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:13.4172 (109.740)
24. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:12.8001 (110.670)
25. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
26. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, 01:13.5181 (109.589)