ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — A late tire change during qualifying earned Will Power the pole for the IndyCar Series race at Road America.
He’ll start in the front row for the 202-mile Kohler Grand Prix on Sunday with a qualifying-best lap of 141.379 mph.
With a caution flag out in the middle of the last round of qualifying, known as the “Fast 6,” Power’s team decided to change tires on his No. 12 Chevy to a set of red-trimmed Firestone alternates. Those road course-specific tires allow for faster speeds and better cornering, but wear out quicker than regular tires.
“If we had lost the pole in the Fast 6, we would have looked pretty bad with new tires,” Power said.
Tony Kanaan, who qualified third, noticed the difference.
“Will actually did a great job on there saving a new set of reds, so he was going to be tough to beat anyway,” Kanaan said.
Power, the 2014 series champion, won his 44th career pole. He’s coming off his first victory of the season on June 5 at Detroit.
The Team Penske driver also earned the 499th pole in all racing series in the 50-year history of the organization.
In between Power and Kanaan, Scott Dixon qualified second at 141.150 mph.
“The car is super-fast, and just frustrated that we didn’t get what we should have been able to,” Dixon said.
Series points leader Simon Pagenaud qualified fourth.
The race marks IndyCar’s first stop at the 14-turn, 4-plus mile track since 2007.
FAST SIX: Qualifying was done in three rounds for the 22 drivers. Early rounds featured 11 drivers each, with the top six moving on to a qualifying “semifinal.” The top six from that round then moved on to a final qualifying session, which was won by Power.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Helio Castroneves qualified fifth, while Graham Rahal was sixth. The top six drivers had each previously raced at Road America. Three other drivers in the field also have Road America experience: Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified eighth on Saturday, while Sebastien Bourdais was 12th and Juan Pablo Montoya was 14th.
BOURDAIS’ DAY: The Frenchman won the last open-wheel race at Road America in 2007. He’s the only driver in the field who has won at Elkhart Lake. Bourdais said some brake issues hampered his No. 11 Chevy. “The car was really strong. It is just tough to turn left when the car pulls right. We’ll work on it tonight and in the warm-up tomorrow and see what we can come up with for the race,” Bourdias said.
TO THE BACK: Josef Newgarden, who is racing two weeks after breaking his right collarbone, spun out in the two-turn area of the track called the “Carousel” during an early qualifying lap. He will start 20th. ... James Hinchcliffe will start 22nd after having his two best lap times nullified for qualifying interference after race officials reviewed an incident in the second qualifying session that also involved rookie Alexander Rossi, who will start 16th.
ENGINE WATCH: The top five qualifiers had cars with Chevy engines, with only Rahal using a Honda engine among the Fast 6 racers. “But overall I think it’s close. I think it’s competitive. I was surprised there weren’t more Hondas in the top six, but I was glad if there was one, it was us,” Rahal said.
MAX ATTACK: Rookie Max Chilton qualified a career-best seventh, one better than his start at Phoenix on April 2.