Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves took positions 1 through 4 in that order this afternoon. In line with the general consensus, this Penske-strong predictability will likely continue into the qualifying session at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight.
Power is looking for his 6th Verizon P1 Award of 2017 and is the most likely to earn another one day. His biggest competition are those three aforementioned drivers that he shares garage space with – Castroneves has 3 poles to his name this season while Pagenaud has 1 and Newgarden is searching for his first this year.
Castroneves has the most experience at Gateway, and the only one on Team Penske with race-time laps under his belt. That might all be a non-issue however, with both Power and Newgarden breaking the 185 mph-mark.
Lap speeds ranged from 175 to 185mph, so the field as a whole has a comfort level to reach before any one individual will claim dominance this weekend. Positions 1 – 20 were all within 5mph of each other, with the outlier being Sebastian Saavedra in the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. If you’ll recall, Saavedra is temporarily filling the seat this weekend after the departure of Mikhail Aleshin prior to the Pocono Raceway event. Jack Harvey will take over to pilot the No. 7 next weekend at Watkins Glen International and during the Sonoma Raceway finale in mid-September.
The pleasant surprise of the practice round was Ed Jones running P5 in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. His best start on an oval is P8 at Iowa and he’s 14th in the qualifying order this evening so he might have a good shot at starting high in the Honda-class.