This is the fifth time I have sat down to write a qualifying results post about Will Power winning the Verizon P1 Award in 2017. As usual, he dominated in the Firestone Fast 6 segment, earning the 49th Verizon P1 Award of his IndyCar career (tying him for fourth of all-time with Bobby Unser) with a lap of 1:04.1720. It wasn’t record-breaking, but it was plenty quick enough to outshine the other participants in the final round of qualifying.
This isn’t new for Power, as he’s started from pole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course twice in the past (2010, 2012) and finished as a runner-up both of those years as well as last season. The victory that’s eluded him at this 13-turn flowing road course is his only focus this weekend,
“It’s something that I would really like to do. It’s a very technical track, loose, fast, a lot of commitment. Typical old-school IndyCar road course.
I’m really excited for this pole. The No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew has really been on it all weekend here at Mid-Ohio. I’m ready for tomorrow’s race with what we feel is a really strong car.”
Power was joined in the Firestone Fast 6 by Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Chevy) and Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevy). Simon Pagenaud and his No. 1 Menards Chevy just missed the cut, and will start on the inside of Row 4 tomorrow, next to James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow SPM Honda) who is famous at Mid-Ohio in his own right…
Pagenaud landed the pole and the win last year at Mid-Ohio, so do not count him out quite yet – he’s hungry for a second win in 2017 and eager to move up on the Championship points board. He currently sits third behind Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Ganassi Honda) and Castroneves in that fight for the Astor Cup.
Speaking of Dixon, he was one of three drivers in the Fast 6 today that were not part of Team Penske. Dixon, a.k.a. Mr. Mid-Ohio, has won 5 times in Lexington, Ohio and has started from pole twice. He’s also been a strong contender here, having finished outside the Top 5 only three times in his 12 starts. Tomorrow will make for lucky number 13 and we’ll see if he can work his way through the tough competition in front of him and find that clean air that’s always helped him conserve gas with insanely impressive efficiency in years past.
Graham Rahal (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake RLL Honda) and Takuma Sato (No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Andretti Autosport Honda) are two of the cars that will be out front of Dixon when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon. Rahal won the Honda Indy 200 in 2015, and has the connection of home that feeds his passion and desire to find victory here again. He will attempt to make that happen from the outside of Row 2.
Right next to him will be Sato, who is looking for his second victory of the season and second with Ruoff Home Mortgage as a sponsor. They have graced the No. 26 two other weekends in 2017 – for the Indianapolis 500 which he won, and for the Detroit doubleheader weekend where he earned a pole in Race 2. They certainly seem to be a good luck charm for the Japanese driver!
I’ve had fun making predictions this weekend and oddly enough, they’ve mostly been coming to fruition. So, I’m gonna quit while I’m ahead and not make any calls about the race. I will just hope for a solid competition, some savvy racecraft out there on track for the entertainment of the sure-to-be packed hillsides and grandstands, and above all we will hope for a safe race for all our competitors, and everyone at the track tomorrow.
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will go green at 3:47 p.m. on CNBC, with festivities kicking off here at the track at 3:00 p.m. with driver introductions. Those take place at pit out, on the infield side of the track. Just look for the huge Verizon IndyCar Series stage near the Turn 1 bridge! I’ll see you there…
Cover photo credit: Shay Hazen
In-post photo: Matt Fraver/IndyCar