Power dominates qualifying to take pole at Portland

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Will Power (AUS), Team Penske, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland
Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

Will Power will start on pole position for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway. The Team Penske driver put in a dominating performance throughout the three sessions of qualifying to take his fifty-fourth career pole, with team-mate Josef Newgarden lining up alongside in second place.

It has been an incredible week for Will Power so far. Less than seven days ago, the Australian was standing in victory circle at Gateway Motorsports Park having won the race last Saturday night. It was a quick turnaround for the teams and drivers to get ready for this weekend’s race at Portland, but Power got off the marks well be setting the fastest time in practice two on Friday afternoon.

When qualifying got underway, there was no slowing down for Power. The Australian set the fastest time of the weekend so far when he hit the track in session one of qualifying, setting a scintillating lap-time of 57.2143-seconds; a new track record for the Portland road course. He continued to hold his advantage over the field into session two, setting the fastest time yet again, this time with a 57.3.

It would be another great lap for Power in the final session of qualifying to decide pole position. He hit the front initially with a 57.6-second lap, but he would smash that to set a 57.3467 a lap later. Not one of his fellow competitors had anything to take the fight to Power, which meant that Will would secure his fourth pole position of the 2018 season and the fifty-fourth pole of his IndyCar career.

Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden made it a front-row lock-out for Team Penske, with the American driver taking second place; albeit with a sizable gap of three and a half tenths of a second between the two team-mates.

Alexander Rossi was less than a tenth of a second slower than Newgarden, with the Andretti Autosport driver qualifying in third place in his #27 Honda. The result was a crucial one for Rossi, with the Californian hoping to further decrease Scott Dixon‘s twenty-six point advantage in the championship standings with just two races remaining.

It was a herculean effort by Dale Coyne Racing to get Sebastien Bourdais out on track in qualifying. The Frenchman set the fastest time in final practice, but right at the end of the session, Sebastien crashed a turn ten and caused heavy damage to his #18 Honda. All three of Dale Coyne’s crews chipped in to help get the car repaired in time, with the team being forced to fit parts from different car liveries in order to get Bourdais ready for qualifying.

In the end, Bourdais paid the team back well for their efforts. Sebastien would take fourth on the grid in his mismatched race car, with just over half a second separating him from the pole position time. A great effort from all involved.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will roll off in fifth place in the race, with team-mate Zach Veach putting in yet another fantastic drive to reach the final session of qualifying. The rookie will start in sixth-place and will be hoping he can challenge for his first career podium in IndyCar.

Zach Veach (USA), Andretti Autosport, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Many drivers were caught out by traffic at the short Portland International Raceway. One of those was seventh-placed James Hinchcliffe, who claimed he had been on a lap that would have seen him comfortably advance into the final session before he was caught out by a car running ahead of him on his hot lap.

Ed Jones had a solid qualifying session. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led his group in session one of qualifying and went on to qualify in eighth place. Ninth place would go to Marco Andretti, with Graham Rahal putting in a decent performance to take tenth on the grid for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Perhaps the biggest story from qualifying was the disappointing performance for the championship leader. Scott Dixon had shown decent pace throughout practice, but he could only manage eleventh on the grid after a lacklustre run in session two. With many believing that overtakes will be at a premium in the race, a poor finish for Dixon could have major championship implications should his nearest rival, Rossi, finish strongly in the top five.

The final spot in the top twelve would go the way of Jordan King, who looked to make a decent step up in performance from his previous pace shown in practice. Just missing out on a spot in the second session would be King’s fellow countryman Jack Harvey, who put in a great run to take thirteenth place for Meyer Shank Racing.

Carlos Munoz was impressive in qualifying for his first IndyCar road course race in over a year. The Columbian took Robert Wickens‘ #6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to fourteenth on the grid, just ahead of Max Chilton‘s #59 Carlin in fifteenth place.

Pietro Fittipaldi led the time-sheets for much of his first session of qualifying but the Brazilian rookie could not find the same improvements as his rivals as the session came to a close. He will line-up in sixteenth place, just ahead of his new Dale Coyne Racing team-mate Santino Ferrucci in eighteenth place. Spencer Pigot separated the two.

Further back, a number of series veterans would qualify way down the order. Takuma Sato could only manage to bag twentieth place on the grid. Simon Pagenaud was well off the pace of his Penske team-mates. Whilst Power and Newgarden locked out the front-row, Simon could only manage twenty-second on the grid, with a lap-time that was eight tenths slower than Power in the first round.

Tony Kanaan will line up in the penultimate spot on the grid in twenty-fourth place, with Charlie Kimball bookending the field in twenty-fifth and last place for Carlin.

With all three of Dixon’s realistic championship rivals starting in the top three positions whilst he sets off in eleventh place, the 2018 Grand Prix of Portland could play a significant role in setting up a thrilling season-finale at Sonoma Raceway.

Will Power (AUS), Team Penske, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Qualifying results:

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