IndyCar championship points leader Will Power has claimed an all-important advantage at the penultimate round of the season by claiming pole position for this weekend’s Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
Not only does Power (who led the points race by just 9 points coming into this round) claim another championship point as a result of claiming pole, his main title rival Dario Franchitti could only muster the 11th-fastest time.
Power hustled his Penske around Kentucky’s 1.5-mile oval with a two-lap average speed of 219.283mph, almost a full mile per hour faster than second-quickest man, Chip Gannasi driver Graham Rahal.
It was a solid session for a few of the series’ rookie and part-time drivers as well. Rookies James Hinchcliffe (Newman/Haas) and JR Hildebrand (in a lurid-pink Panther) claimed third and fifth on the grid, split by Sarah Fisher Racing’s oval expert Ed Carpenter, who claimed pole position here last year.
Marco Andretti staged a dramatic turnaround in his usual qualifying form by clocking the sixth-fastest time, and he is closely followed by Scott Dixon, winner of the last round at Motegi Twin Ring.
The top ten is completed by Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti), Oriol Servià (Newman/Haas) and Charlie Kimball (Ganassi), while Franchitti was some half-a-second slower than Power’s pole effort.
In an unusual result for the usually rock solid Team Penske, neither of Power’s team-mates could get it together in qualifying: Hélio Castroneves is a poor 16th, while Ryan Briscoe is two spots further back.
Another team to struggle was KV Racing – usually a dependable outfit on oval circuits – with Tony Kanaan being the three-car squad’s best qualifier with just the 19th-fastest time.
Series returnee Dan Wheldon will start from the back of the field after his Sam Schmidt entry failed scrutineering, while RLL driver Pippa Mann suffered another qualifying smash – although thankfully not with the same injury-inducing result that sidelined her from her last outing at New Hampshire – and she will start from last place.
2011 Kentucky Indy 300 Final Qualifying Results:
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske||1:38.4194||219.283mph|
|2.||Graham Rahal||Service Central Chip Ganassi||1:38.5946||218.348mph|
|3.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||1:38.9226||218.186mph|
|4.||Ed Carpenter||Sarah Fisher Racing||1:38.9226||218.004mph|
|5.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||1:39.2650||217.872mph|
|6.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||1:38.9058||217.807mph|
|7.||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||1:38.3918||217.692mph|
|8.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||1:39.0750||217.632mph|
|9.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||1:38.7719||217.520mph|
|10.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing||1:38.7911||217.357mph|
|11.||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||1:38.8738||217.213mph|
|12.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||1:38.9371||217.110mph|
|13.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||1:39.3440||216.924mph|
|14.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||1:39.4789||216.768mph|
|15.||Wade Cunningham||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||1:39.4789||216.763mph|
|16.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||1:38.9743||216.732mph|
|17.||Buddy Rice||Panther Racing||1:39.4789||216.685mph|
|18.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||1:38.7082||216.669mph|
|19.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:39.5004||216.484mph|
|20.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||1:39.4724||216.424mph|
|21.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||1:39.3269||216.300mph|
|22.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:38.9194||215.856mph|
|23.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||1:38.9562||215.789mph|
|24.||Alex Lloyd||Dale Coyne Racing||1:38.7495||215.607mph|
|25.||Dillon Battistini||Conquest Racing||1:38.8198||215.587mph|
|26.||Townsend Bell||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||1:38.8588||215.404mph|
|27.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||1:38.8198||214.297mph|
|28.||Dan Wheldon||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||no time|
|29.||Pippa Mann||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||no time|
[Images via IZOD IndyCar Series]