Will Power went last and made the most of the better track conditions to win his 48th career IndyCar pole for Sunday's Iowa Corn 300 on the 7/8ths mile Iowa Raceway at over 185 mph over two laps. Power's Penske Chevy led a Chevy 1-2-3-4 in qualifying.
"It was actually a good day to be the last one out," said Power.
"The track was very slippery early. I got good feedback from my teammates. We made a few changes to the car. Our Verizon Chevy was solid. Looking forward to the race tomorrow. Should be hectic because you are always in traffic. Should be a lot of fun."
JR Hildebrand was 2nd quick at 183.811 mph over the two laps in his Ed Carpenter Chevy. Helio Castroneves will start 3rd at 183.712 mph.
Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato rounded out the top-5. Indy 500 winner Sato starting 5th is much better than the rest of his Andretti teammates.
The warm conditions caught everyone out but the race will be run late tomorrow afternoon meaning the conditions should be a bit better.
"It's just about hard work and bringing out your raw speed when you need it. I love qualifying," said Power, who closed within one pole position of tying Bobby Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car list. "It's the part of the weekend where you push and give everything you can possibly give."
Power's two-lap average was 1.4 mph faster than the second-place qualifier, Ed Carpenter Racing's JR Hildebrand. It marks the second pole on Iowa Speedway's fast 0.894-mile oval for Power and the third straight at the track for Team Penske, whose 252 Indy car poles are the most of any team in history.
"It was definitely nerve-racking when I watched my teammates' data because you can watch it live on the (pit) stand and they were having big spikes of oversteer," said Power, who looked on as Team Penske's Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves qualified ahead of him in the line. "We were thinking we didn't run enough downforce, but the track came in a little bit and we watched Helio's run - it was really solid - so I knew we'd be thereabouts. Really, really happy for the Verizon car to be on pole."
No Iowa pole sitter has gone on to win the race in 10 previous Verizon IndyCar Series events at Iowa, and Team Penske has yet to win a race at the track.
Hildebrand's career-best qualifying effort of second was impressive as well, considering the 29-year-old Californian crashed in the No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet during morning practice. Uninjured save for bruised knees, Hildebrand nearly lost the car in the same spot in Turn 2 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt, but saved it and completed the run.
"We certainly came in here expecting that we could put the car in the front row, so I'm just sort of in a way relieved that we were able to recover from this morning and do that," said Hildebrand, whose average speed of 183.811 mph came in the same chassis that Newgarden drove to victory at Iowa for ECR in 2016, leading an Indy car-record 282 laps.
"You obviously want to be able to capitalize on opportunities to get poles when they present themselves," Hildebrand added. "Today certainly would have been one of those for us, but I think in the big scheme of things, we'll certainly take a front-row spot. A lot of credit to the team to give me something to be confident to get back out there and push pretty hard."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was a bit of a scary ride. I don't know if it was the different kind of rubber laid down by the other series or what, but the Menards Chevy was a little loose. That can happen when you go out first. You're just never really sure what you're going to get. I'm not worried about anything though. I know the car is strong. My teammates that went out later in the session had good runs, so we'll just need to work through some traffic to get to the front. There's a lot of laps in this race, so there's time to get there."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Iowa Corn 300 winner): "With the order, Simon (Pagenaud) and I were guinea pigs. The track was a little slick and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet was loose, but I'm really confident we'll be good for the race. This was all about timing and having to go out third. I'm very excited to have Fitzgerald on board since that is who was on the car when I got my first Team Penske win at Barber back in April. I'm looking forward to a great race tomorrow. We just need to pass a bunch of people."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We made a lot of changes to be closer to Carlos' (Munoz) setup from the first practice, so the car was a lot different for me in qualifying. I didn't want to take too big of swing at it, too big of chance. I think we improved the balance, but I wasn't able to take advantage of it, and I think we were a little bit light on downforce for the conditions because the car was definitely sliding around and was difficult to drive. We're making progress, it was difficult for everyone."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "For two laps of a 7/8-mile oval, it's amazing how out of breath you are qualifying here in these conditions. It was really loose for us in the Arrow car - just trying to battle that and trying to keep your foot on the throttle as much as you could. Luckily we were able to help Mikhail (Aleshin) a little bit and give him a heads up. This isn't our best type of track, so for the two of us to be ahead of some of the Ganassi and Penske cars, that's a good start."
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "I'm happy with our run; the No. 7 Lucas Oil car did a pretty good job. Qualifying isn't everything on an oval, but it's nice to have some speed within our Honda group, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "This whole year we've been improving with the Gallagher car. I like to get in a car, drive it and get up to speed, but it takes that first year. Then the second year I think we can get some good results and show some pace. Then the third year is when you get after it and can really do the business. It's a disappointing result overall today because we qualified a career-best fourth here last year. We just don't have the package here, but I felt I got the most out of what we had. The increase in temperature didn't help during our run, but we can definitely have a good shot at the race tomorrow."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda, 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): "We didn't have much running time today here at Iowa. And then we had a 20-minute penalty to serve from Road America, which turned into a 25-minute penalty for us. Definitely a tough day when you lose that much running time in one day. We didn't have any testing here, and I think we expected the track to not degrade as much with the track temps and ambient coming up a bit. But it was just all over the place on my run. Not a whole lot of grip and we were all over the place in the No. 9 NTT Data car unfortunately."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "That first lap was a hell of a lap. I actually got sideways between Turns 1 and 2, but was able to catch it. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle here with the aero package, but with six of the top-10 qualifying spots being Honda I think we showed it's not going to be one-sided tomorrow night. The No. 10 NTT Data Honda is good in race trim, so I think we're going to be competitive and be able to make some moves toward the front tomorrow night."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Iowa Corn 300 pole winner): "I was a little worried when I saw my teammates' data and the gear trace; they were turning more right than left. But when Helio (Castroneves) went, who had a similar car to me, I thought, 'The track's coming in,' and it seemed like people got more and more consistent, so I thought -- I actually didn't even know what speeds JR (Hildebrand) was on, but I did my absolute best. Very happy to start up front. Obviously around short track racing, pole is more important for the next race and good position than it is track position here. You've got to be very good in traffic, so we've got our eye on that and focusing pretty hard on that."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It was super slippery and I lost the rear end of the car and impacted the rear wing. I don't think the car is that damaged, so it shouldn't be a lot of work to fix. I had a little understeer, but then the rear end went loose. The lap times are much slower than this morning and it's not like we were super-trimmed, but it's a shame. This track, if you have a good car you can go to the front."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): "I'm disappointed because I think we had a quicker car than that. We just lost the balance a little bit in qualifying, but the GEHL boys will continue to work hard to give us the best race car they can. We didn't get a lot of running in this morning in race trim, so hopefully we will be able to do that tonight. It's not that the car was bad, but I know we had better than that. The balance changed a lot over the run. It looks like we ran more trimmed than most guys, but we wanted to take a swing for the fences."
ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "Obviously I was finding my way through the run with all the tools in the car. I hope that my experience here can take me further on for the race tomorrow and the next oval as well."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was a good qualifying session. The track changed a lot from the morning practice, so it was very difficult to drive out there. I think a lot of people struggled, but the engineers did a good job deciding what to do with the car and we were able to end up eighth. Now we just need to make some changes to make the car competitive for the race run and hopefully we can get another good result." (About how difficult it is to go out and qualify here with such short laps): "You just have to rehearse it in your mind before you go out there so you know exactly what to do because it happens so quickly. It's a lot of fun, you come out and your shaking a bit because it's pretty extreme."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It was tricky. I think you're seeing from everyone that it's a lot different out there from how we practiced earlier. Especially those early guys getting caught out by it, there just wasn't the same grip. I messed up trying to adjust it and got big loose in Turn 4. It hurt my second lap; I thought it was going to be a pretty good lap. It has been a weird day. JR (Hildebrand) had an accident, now he's sitting in a pretty good spot for tomorrow. We went a little conservative with him coming off the accident, but when I saw him go out I thought it might be a pretty good just based on the way the conditions were. Both ECR cars are strong and it's good to see some Chevys up front. We'll work on having a good practice tonight and be ready to go tomorrow."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "So much credit to the team for giving me something I could be confident in out there. The first lap back out after the accident and we gotta go qualify the thing! After we crashed in Texas, the guys put the car back together without setting it up on the set up pad. We went back out in the middle of that race and it felt perfect, right on the money, so I will never question the guys getting the car back together again! The Fuzzy's Vodka boys just did a great job. I feel good about where we qualified, obviously I would have liked to get the pole but I'm happy to be starting on the front row."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "This is a good result for the No. 26 team. Qualifying had tricky conditions - (qualifying was) a lot warmer than the practice earlier today and my teammates who qualified before me had tough runs. We saw their data and tried to learn from (their runs) and make the most of ours. I think we really did a great job pulling things together. Qualifying fifth is really good."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): "We looked good in practice and ended up the top Honda this morning, but then something went wrong for us in qualifying. Our starting position is not showing our potential and that's disappointing. We need to figure out what went wrong and fix things for tomorrow. Luckily we have another practice tonight to work on it."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We're just missing speed. I don't get it really. This morning in practice we did the same trim stuff that our teammates did and the speed just wouldn't come with it, and then again in qualifying - we just aren't getting the speeds we should be. We're just not sure what's going on, but we'll put our heads together in final practice and overnight to see what we can do. Our goal is to get the DHL car into victory lane for a fourth time here in Iowa."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "It was a little different outcome than what we were expecting from the No. 83 car today in qualifying. The track was reasonably good this morning and then we went out this afternoon for qualifying and it had definitely gotten hotter and more slippery. A couple of the other series have run and put some different rubber down. We chased balance and grip a little bit. I'm disappointed in our qualifying effort and I think the car is definitely better in race trim than that. I guess the bright side is that bodes well for tonight's practice and the race tomorrow."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): "It was a pretty greasy qualifying run. I don't know whether it was the temperatures or the lack of support rubber on track, but I feel like our car had a lot more in it than 12th. Drawing an early qualifying number is never ideal, so that didn't help us either. It's a pretty tight field for the most part, so we'll just have to see what tomorrow holds for the race."
More to follow......
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