Pole Master Power could have a date with history in Portland

This Saturday at Portland International Raceway, Team Penske’s Will Power can accomplish something that seemed out of character a few years ago: He can surpass the legendary Mario Andretti as the most successful qualifier in INDYCAR SERIES history.

First, some perspective. Andretti eclipsed AJ Foyt’s mark of 53 during the 1985 season. At the time, only three drivers, Foyt, Andretti and Bobby Unser, with 49, had more than 30 pole positions. Andretti finished his career with 67, with his last pole in July 1993 at Michigan International Speedway.

Power has always been a strong qualifier, winning his first Champ Car pole in 2006 with Derrick Walker’s Team Australia. He won five more the next season.

Power joined the Penske team in a part-time position in 2009, replacing Helio Castroneves for the first race of the season. When Castroneves got back in his car for the second race of the season, Power was given six more races that year, at Long Beach, and he won the pole. He also won the pole later in the year at Edmonton.

When Power was upgraded to full-time status with Roger Penske’s organization for the 2010 season, he was 29 years old and had eight poles in the series. He was known to be fast, sure, but there was nothing to suggest the historic qualifying fury he would produce for years to come.

Only nine drivers in series history have won at least eight pole positions in a single season, and Power, like Foyt and Andretti, has done so more than once. He won eight pole positions in 2010 and eight more in 2011 to get him started. He was 24 entering the 2012 season, already ranked 11th all-time and just two behind Dario Franchitti’s total at the time (he finished 33).

See also  Football is 'sick', says Perez as Real Madrid boss pushes again for change in European competition

Entering this season, Power was eight years old with at least four pole positions, and he had three other seasons in which he won three. But even in 2020, he didn’t think he could catch Andretti.

“I think when I hit 60 (in 2020 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), I thought, ‘This could be possible,’” he said.

Power added poles in the final two races of the 2020 season, then earned another in race 13 of the 2021 season, at World Wide Technology Raceway. With the feeling that the competition had increased and the fact that Power was in his 40s, he again began to doubt his chance of reaching Andretti’s mark. He only got one pole in the first 10 races this season.

Then came the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Weekend doubleheader at Iowa Speedway, where in a 36-second span on July 23, he set the fastest lap for both races in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to win a pair of NTT P1s. . Power’s post count had reached 66. He was at the gates of history.

“When I got the double pole at Iowa, that’s when it got really realistic,” he said. “The year before I had a pole position. I think last year I had three. It was getting harder and harder to get pole position. He was thinking, ‘This is going to be pretty tough to get through.’

“But the double pole at Iowa was really key.”

Power matched Andretti in the recent race at World Wide Technology Raceway, and now, with three pole positions in the last five races, it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will break the mark, sooner rather than later.

See also  NFL Week 12 Betting Trends: Seahawks Trade vs. raiders

Record number 68 could come as early as Saturday at Portland International Raceway in qualifying for the Portland Grand Prix (3:05 pm ET, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network). He has a couple of front-row starts there, including an NTT P1 award in 2018 and a race win in 2019. On September 10, Power will get another chance to qualify for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey in WeatherTech. Laguna Seca Raceway. He started third there last year.

If he doesn’t manage to win another pole this season, it’s always next year. Either way, he at least shares the record with one of the most successful drivers in motorsport history, something that can’t be taken away.

“Yeah, it’s definitely a big box to check,” Power said.

The Portland Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, airs live on NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

Leave a Comment