Will Power claimed his third pole in three IndyCar qualifying sessions this year by edging out Ryan Hunter-Reay on the streets of Long Beach.
Penske driver Power's unbeaten qualifying run looked like it might come to an end when reigning Long Beach champion Hunter-Reay (Andretti) put in 1:09.141 lap to go half a second clear of his rivals in the Firestone Fast Six pole shoot-out. But Power was able to dig a bit deeper on his next lap and depose Hunter-Reay by 0.076sec. A minor error on the American's attempted response meant Hunter-Reay had to settle for second.
"That was definitely a tough one. I think Ryan (Hunter-Reay) had me there right until the end," admitted Power. "He had a left going that was pretty quick. I think he might have blown the last sector. But we worked very hard for that. I know how fast Hunter‑Reay is around here from the race last year. He's bloody hard to beat. You know, it's going to be a tough day tomorrow, but qualifying today I think we put ourselves in the best possible position."
In an encouraging session for Andretti Autosport, Hunter-Reay's teammate Mike Conway took third on the grid, having held provisional pole for a while. The Briton shares row two with Oriol Servia, as Newman/Haas quickly put its driver's morning crash in the past and ran strongly throughout qualifying.
Justin Wilson rebounded from a disappointing run in practice to fight through to the Fast Six session and qualify fifth, beating Penske's Helio Castroneves. Wilson, Servia and Conway's star performances meant several big name did not reach the pole shootout. None of the Ganassi cars made the cut, leaving Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon on row four, the latter feeling Power had impeded him at a crucial moment.
But an even bigger shock was practice pacesetter Ryan Briscoe's inability to get above 12th. Feeling his Penske team had gone off-course with the setup for qualifying, Briscoe was only half a second away from the fastest time and 0.2sec from making the cut but was still slowest in the session.
"Everybody is pushing really hard," said Servia. "It's great, because I'm coming back stronger than ever and the team is in the same place. Every weekend you see how competitive it is out there. You blink one session, you're 15th. Briscoe himself, he was kind of the man to beat all weekend, and he's 12th."
Alex Tagliani maintained his run of top-12 starts with ninth for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, ahead of KV's top runner Tony Kanaan and Servia's consistently impressive rookie teammate James Hinchcliffe.
Vitor Meira (Foyt) and Marco Andretti (Andretti) narrowly missed out on top 12 qualification in their round one groups, during which Sebastian Saavedra impressed again by securing 15th for Conquest ahead of the other two KV cars and Ganassi's Graham Rahal, the latter criticizing JR Hildebrand after the session for alleging getting in his way.
Paul Tracy's return did not begin well as he was slowest in his group and will line up 25th for Dragon Racing. That puts him two rows behind his sometime arch-rival Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing).
||Simona de Silvestro