Will Power romped to his third pole in a row, fifth of the year for Team Penske as he looks forward to potentially clinching his first IZOD IndyCar Series title this weekend. Power's 1:17.9750 beat Mike Conway's 1:18.5509 substantially.
"It was just minimal time on the track the last couple days," Power said of the weekend thus far. "We knew we had a pretty good setup. I was a little worried after practice we were only 15th, only got a couple laps. I was determined to get pole. I needed another point toward the championship, definitely helps. Starting at the front lowers the percentages of getting involved in an incident in the first lap."
Conway timed in second but crashed at the end of qualifying in his No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises car. He was one of the latest to hit the chicane hard and end against the wall. Conway will lose the second starting position not due to the accident but a 10-spot engine grid penalty.
"Rolled out this morning; the balance was pretty good," Conway said. "We didn't really change anything over the weekend. The car has been pretty much there most of the time. Just kind of working on getting around the track. The challenge of the chicane (is) just trying to find a little bit more there on the last lap.
"But happy obviously to get second, but then with the engine penalty, we're going to be 12th. That's a bit annoying, obviously. Could have been a front-row start. But it is what it is. Same for everyone. It's just going to make our day tomorrow a bit more challenging. We'll see where we stack up on the first few laps on what we're going to do with strategy."
Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Dario Franchitti and James Hinchcliffe completed the Firestone Fast 6.
"Obviously the chicane on the backstretch needs to be addressed for tomorrow," Franchitti said of the track status. "It's too quick. It's fourth gear right now. I'm taking it fourth gear at some laps."
In group two, one driver majorly avoided disaster while another had an accident. Ed Carpenter hit the chicane and launched higher than Simon Pagenaud did on Friday, but landed without incident. His driver coach Lee Bentham joked afterwards, “We used up eight of our (nine) lives on that one!” Pagenaud had contact of his own exiting the chicane in qualifying at the end of Q1, having advanced, and didn't run in Q2 thanks to suspension damage.
Not as fortunate was Justin Wilson, who crashed on exit to the chicane a little later. Wilson lost his two fastest times as a result and was set to qualify ninth, although he'll move up as a result of Charlie Kimball's engine change grid penalty.
Kimball was still best of those who failed to advance into the Firestone Fast 6. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing driver has his best qualifying effort of the season (seventh) and, although by default (see below), outqualified Graham Rahal for the first time this season.
Group one of qualifying was cut short by an accident involving Rahal at the chicane. That caught out several drivers, all waiting to set a major hot lap flier later in the session, but big names were left out. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alex Tagliani, Rubens Barrichello and Takuma Sato missed the cut, as did Simona de Silvestro – Sato and de Silvestro take grid penalties for fitting new engines and will fall to the last two spots on the grid.
With some of the bigger names out, those who went earlier in the session to bank hot laps - Kimball, Bruno Junqueira and Ed Carpenter among them - all advanced. Carpenter's 11th qualifying position is his best of the seaosn, and he'll move up to ninth with the two penalties in front of him.
By group two, two of the Penske teammates were eliminated – Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves – along with Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti and James Jakes.
Conway, Kimball, Junqueira (qualified 10th), de Silvestro and Sato are the five in the engine change grid penalty department for tomorrow.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m17.9750s
2. Mike Conway Foyt Dallara-Honda 1m18.5509s + 0.5759s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m18.6017s + 0.6267s
4. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m18.8500s + 0.8750s
5. Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m18.9398s + 0.9648s
6. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m19.3101s + 1.3351s
7. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m19.3347s Round 2
8. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy 1m19.6788s Round 2
9. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m20.3559s Round 2
10. Bruno Junqueira Fisher Dallara-Honda 1m20.3826s Round 2
11. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy 1m20.4968s Round 2
12. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda Round 2
13. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m21.7113s Group 1
14. Ryan Briscoe Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m18.8872s Group 2
15. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda 1m22.2657s Group 1
16. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m18.9533s Group 2
17. Rubens Barrichello KV Dallara-Chevy 1m22.7851s Group 1
18. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy 1m19.3365s Group 2
19. Takuma Sato Rahal Dallara-Honda 1m24.5395s Group 1
20. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m19.4192s Group 2
21. Simona de Silvestro HVM Dallara-Lotus 1m27.2226s Group 1
22. James Jakes Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m19.5496s Group 2
23. Graham Rahal Ganassi Dallara-Honda Group 1
24. EJ Viso KV Dallara-Chevy 1m19.8631s Group 2
25. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy Group 2