Will Power only had 210 seconds to find the fastest way around the 2.25-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Saturday’s final IZOD Indy Car qualifying session, but he found that he needed less than 66 of them to storm to his third pole of the season.
Power got around the 13-turn layout in 1:05.6474 to swipe the pole for Sunday’s Mid-Ohio Indy 200, taking his second Mid-Ohio pole and the 27th of his young career.
The Penske Racing driver joined the rest of the Firestone Fast Six in sitting on Pit Lane to watch the majority of the final 10-minute pole session, with Power becoming the first driver to post a timed lap with just 3:30 left before the checkered flag. He led the session early, then punctuated the session by putting up his best lap on his last time around the racetrack.
“My car was really good on used tires and I was surprised on how much grip there was left on them.” Power said. “I used a lot of energy on that last lap because the track is so fast. I was dizzy getting out of the car, but maybe because I was holding my breath the whole way! But I think I got every single sector right on that lap, which was good because I really wanted that pole.”
Power pipped Dario Franchitti on the top of the time charts, although Franchitti would content himself with his sixth consecutive front-row start in the series. Franchitti has not started outside of the front two since gridding 14th at Belle Isle back in June, but has failed to parlay those spots into a top-five finishing spot.
“It’s nice to start up front here because track position is so important, but if it rains tomorrow, it will be a different story,” Franchitti said. “We need to convert some of these front-row starts into good results and we’ve had trouble with that lately. I really thought I had a good lap going, then when I saw Will’s time, I knew that we didn’t have anything for him.”
Simon Pagenaud qualified third, moving into the second row after nearly missing the Firestone Fast Six in the second session. The Frenchman used his final lap of the second qualifying session to vault into the quick six, relegating countryman Sebastien Bourdais to the seventh spot on the grid.
Alex Tagliani will start fourth and was the only driver in the Firestone Fast Six that lamented the strategy that kept every off the track for more than half of the final session.
“We were fast early in both Q1 and Q2 and we thought that we could do the same thing in the Fast Six,” Tagliani said. “But the track got a lot faster for the last session and we only fueled the car for three laps, so in the end we simply ran out of time.”
Scott Dixon and 2009 Mid-Ohio polesitter Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top six, while Bourdais, points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and rookie Josef Newgarden filled the top 10.
Surprises on the grid came in who did not advance out of the early rounds. Helio Castroneves suffered a bruised hand in a practice incident today and fell victim to Oriol Servia’s last lap that kept him out of Q2, leaving him to start 13th. Hometown hero Graham Rahal will grid 22nd, while Giorgio Pantano starts 24th in his 2012 debut, subbing for Charlie Kimball.