MADISON, Ill. (AP) — IndyCar points leader Will Power won the pole for the Saturday night race at World Wide Technology Raceway and tied Mario Andretti for series pole record.
The 67th pole of Power’s career was won Friday on the short oval outside St. Louis. The Australian turned a lap at 183.089 mph to easily earn the top starting spot for the critical race in the IndyCar championship fight.
Power goes into Saturday night clinging to a six-point lead in the standings over Scott Dixon, and seven drivers are separated by only 59 points. In all, 11 drivers remain mathematically eligible to win the championship with three races remaining.
Power’s fourth pole of the season was the one he’s been chasing since 2020, when he finally realized that Andretti’s mark was within reach.
“It’s something I’ve had my eye on for a while. I think when I got to 60, I was like ‘This could be possible,’” Power said. “It’s definitely a big box to tick.”
Andretti expects the record to soon fall. Two weeks ago at Nashville, Dixon won for the 63rd time to pass Andretti for second on the all-time list.
“He’s tied now, but he’ll break the record because he wants it bad and knows how to do it,” Andretti wrote on Twitter.
But now that Power has tied the record, he’s turning his attention solely toward the championship fight.
“I’m not feeling any relief because I’m so focused on the race and the championship. I can think about that later and feel good about it,” Power said. “Right now it’s just so important to have a good car in the race and have a solid day.”
Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who held the points lead for six races this season, qualified second for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I think I’ll do everything I possibly can to try and win this championship,” said Ericsson, who is third in points and trails Power by 12.
Ericsson was followed by Power’s teammates at Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin. Newgarden is the defending race winner and 22 points behind Power in the standings in fourth.
IndyCar champion Alex Palou qualified fifth for Ganassi and was followed by teammate Dixon in sixth. Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP was seventh as the top seven drivers in the standings swept the top seven spots — four Chevrolets to the three Hondas from Ganassi.
“I think a lot of the time you’re going to find yourself racing people that you’re actually fighting the championship with,” O’Ward said ahead of qualifying. At 59 points out, he said his goal is clear: “I need to win. I need to win races in order to be able to have a chance.”
Takuma Sato of Dale Coyne Racing qualified eighth and said after his run he’s working on a deal to return to the team next season.
“I think everyone is happy with where we are, but a lot of things have to be done before we tick the box,” Sato said. “It would be a pity if we stop. We want to build up with this team, it’s small, but it’s a great competitive team and I’d love to continue to keep it together.”
The four-car Andretti Autosport lineup qualified ninth through 12th and was led by Romain Grosjean, who made his oval debut at Gateway a year ago. Devlin DeFrancesco was 10th and followed by Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta.
DeFrancesco, a rookie, tested at Gateway last week in preparation for the race and said his comfort level on ovals has dramatically improved since the start of the season. He also said he doesn’t know why he’s in the rumor mill as a driver about to lose his job.
“I have a multi-year deal with Andretti Steinbrenner Racing. I have no idea where the rumors are coming from,” DeFrancesco said. “What I know if I have a multi-year contract.”
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