Will Power on Pole at Mid-Ohio

Will Power has started on pole at Mid-Ohio twice. Both times, he finished runner-up. He actually has three runner-up finishes here, but has never won the race. Tomorrow, he will try to change all of that. Power earned pole position today, with a lap of 1:04.1720 in the Firestone Fast Six. It is Power’s fifth pole of the season, and the 49th of his career.

Joining Power on the front row will be Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. Row 2 belongs to reigning Indianapolis 500 champ Takuma Sato, and hometown guy and Mid-Ohio winner Graham Rahal. Championship points leader and five-time Mid-Ohio winner Scott Dixon joins Penske rival Helio Castroneves rolling off in Row 3. Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, and Ryan Hunter-Reay round out the top ten qualifiers on Saturday.

Qualification Results for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

Andretti Autosport has been fast all weekend, but only one of those four drivers was able to transfer that into qualifying today. Rossi and Hunter-Reay each led a practice session, but weren’t able to make the Firestone Fast Six. Marco Andretti was very quick in every practice session, but qualified 14th for tomorrow’s race.

Tony Kanaan was penalized during qualifying, and will start 17th on Sunday. Mid-Ohio hasn’t been a great place for Kanaan, who has more starts (15) than he does laps led (13) in all of his starts here. Just missing the Top 10 were Conor Daly and Esteban Gutierrez. Both drivers had solid runs, and out-qualified their teammates.

Chip Ganassi has ten wins at the track, but Dixon was the only one of his cars to qualify in the Top 12. Ed Carpenter Racing also struggled, with Spencer Pigot in 16th, and JR Hildebrand starting in 19th position.

Looking at recent history, the drivers to watch tomorrow would obviously include Dixon and Power. Pagenaud has finished on the podium in four of his six starts at Mid-Ohio. Hinchcliffe has three Top 5 finishes in five starts here. Castroneves has won here twice, but his last six results here are 19th, 16th, 6th, 19th, 15th, and 15th, respectively.

The race distance is 90 laps, which is 203.22 miles around the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio. Pagenaud earned pole position for last year’s race, and is also the defending race winner.

Coverage for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at 3 PM ET on CNBC.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “Honestly, I’m a little surprised we didn’t make the (Firestone) Fast Six. It felt like a good lap in the Menards Chevy, but we came up a little short. I put everything I had in it. That’s racing. That’s INDYCAR racing. We’re all fighting for hundredths of a second. I think we have a good car for the race. We’ll line up tomorrow and see what happens.”

Josef Newgarden: “Starting second tomorrow is awesome. The No. 2 PPG Chevrolet is really strong for tomorrow’s race at Mid-Ohio. The team has been really working hard this weekend and it’s paying off. We can’t wait for tomorrow’s race to put on a great show for the crowd here.”

Helio Castroneves: “That was a lot of fun. Everything was so close. INDYCAR racing is down to the centimeters now. We calculated about three laps would be perfect. But because of those 15 seconds that we stayed in the pits, it basically cost us a third lap on the second set of tires, so we didn’t have enough time to complete that. And I got caught in (Turns) 4, 5 and 6, which is a fast area. We lost a bunch of lap time. Regardless of that, thought the Hitachi Chevy was really strong. Congrats to Will (Power). We’ll just keep digging.”

Conor Daly: “Obviously it’s really good for us. I think it’s just a nice thing after the year that we’ve had, it’s nice to have a good qualifying session. The car has been improving, you know. We haven’t had the results to show it yet, but I think this is at least a good step forward for us. We need a race like this where we just sit in the top 10, top 11, top 12, whatever, the whole time so hopefully we can fight from there tomorrow and make up some ground.”

James Hinchcliffe: “A bit of a disappointing day to be honest. The Arrow car has been top six pretty much every single session when you put all the pieces together, and the challenge here in qualifying is getting that lap and putting all the pieces together. Unfortunately we ran into some guys that were gapping pretty disrespectfully and not giving everybody the room that was needed; when there are only 12 cars on track, it’s pretty crazy that we can’t all find a gap. We got caught out by that today. It happens, it’s part of racing. No doubt we had the speed to be in the Firestone Fast Six. Hopefully that bodes well for tomorrow, and we can move up and put the Arrow Electronics car in victory lane.”

Mikhail Aleshin: 
“Qualifying last was definitely not what we were expecting. I think part of it is me getting back into my rhythm after missing the last race weekend in Toronto. Of course it would be nice to qualify at the top, but the most important thing is to finish the race. We all know what can happen here at Mid-Ohio. The people who have seen last year’s race will know what I mean. We just need to continue to push forward and do well, and I’m pretty sure we are going to have a competitive race car for tomorrow.”

Max Chilton: “Practice session one was really good for the Gallagher team, but we started chasing the setup like a wild goose after that for some reason. I think we’re struggling as a team a bit too. Three of us didn’t get through, and Scott (Dixon) wasn’t exactly blistering out there, but he did make it. It’s strange because this is my kind of track. I hope we can sort something out or it’s going to be a bit of a long day tomorrow.”

Scott Dixon: “It wasn’t the best day for us. We’ve been chasing the same issue since the test here last week. The car is really loose on entry and really has understeer. Hopefully we can figure out what’s going on. It was a good day for Honda overall with the qualifying results.”

Tony Kanaan: “I was overcompensating for the grip we don’t have and pushing it too hard out there. We need to do a better job of setting the car up – it just wasn’t there today. I shouldn’t be pushing the car to the max to make up for what’s not there in the setup. It’s going to be really difficult starting in the back here with how hard it is to pass, but we’re going to do everything we can to get up to the front.”

Will Power: 
“I’m really excited for this pole. The No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew has really been on it all weekend here at Mid-Ohio. I’m ready for tomorrow’s race with what we feel is a really strong car.”

Carlos Munoz: “It was a tough one. On the blacks (Firestone primary tires) we were looking pretty strong, but then on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) we didn’t gain where we should gain on the red tires. It was hard to qualify in the top 12 for my group. I think my group was quite tough. It is what it is. Tomorrow I think we have to go strategy-wise really aggressive. Here at this track it’s hard to pass. We have to go aggressive on the strategy and see if it pays off. Last year, I did an aggressive strategy and it paid off, so we will see this year.”

Graham Rahal:
“To have the Steak ‘n Shake Honda be the fastest overall in qualifying is special, but we would have liked to be on pole. I messed up on my best lap in Segment 3, and obviously the two rounds before I put it all together, but when it counted we lost a lot in the last turn, in Turn 12, on the very start of the final lap. I don’t know if we had enough on used reds (Firestone alternate tires). Power was on used reds too, but I don’t think I had that sort of time in me. But we were definitely better than fourth, so I’m a little disappointed in fourth place. I lost four-tenths in one corner alone, and then on the last lap I almost lost it. It’s great for our team and program to be up front once again. We’ve got a good starting spot and hopefully can battle from there. Last year you saw with the three-stopper that a lot of guys were on reds, even if they were used, they were preferred. This year it’s a new tire, so we haven’t run them a full stint yet. We’re in a really good spot in terms of tires. We didn’t use any new blacks (Firestone primary tires), and Helio (Castroneves) used two sets in qualifying. So I thinking tomorrow morning we can use a set and then we can have a heyday in the race and run whatever we want.”

Esteban Gutierrez: “It was very exciting to try to explore and to keep experimenting with the car. Obviously, this is a new track for me. It was challenging to find the right set up. We’ve been working hard as a team to find the sweet spot. I think we managed a good balance until we got to the last run when the track changed. The track is evolving very quickly and you need to keep up with that balance. It was the first time we were in that session, so we missed something to anticipate and to keep up with the balance, but I think it was a good experience. It’s my first time into the fast 12 and it was very interesting. The team did a good job and it’s our best qualifying so far, so we’re making progress and that makes me happy.”

Ed Jones:
 “It was a tough qualifying session overall. We got slowed down a bit by a car in front of us on my last laps, and then the car just got loose and I wasn’t able to improve my lap time at the end to move up the charts.”

Spencer Pigot: 
“We knew going into qualifying that we were in a really hard group. There’s so many good guys up and down pit lane. I feel like it was a pretty good lap on my part, we just ended up missing a little bit in the end. We closed the gap to the fastest cars yet again, but there were just a bunch of people super close as usual. We’ve been looking for a bit more front grip all weekend. We’ve been getting better and better, but that’s one thing that if we can fix it, it will raise our speeds quite a bit. The Fuzzy’s Vodka car is really good though, especially on the longer runs, so we’re looking forward to racing tomorrow.”

JR Hildebrand: 
“The Fuzzy’s Vodka guys are doing a good job. The car doesn’t feel that bad to drive, we just don’t seem to have a lot of speed in it. It’s frustrating because this is a track I really like and the team’s been good here in the past. We just can’t manage to get much better lap times out of it. It’s disappointing, but we’ll continue plugging away at it for the rest of the weekend.”

Takuma Sato: “[Qualifying was] very good. The team work extremely well with the four cars and we were very competitive for all the practice sessions. I’m extremely happy with the performance of the Ruoff Home Mortgage car. I think the team has reached a good setup. I think a P3 is very happy place for us and a good position for the race tomorrow.”

Marco Andretti: “(Group 2) was definitely a tough group, but we needed to beat everybody anyway – that was the goal. The car just didn’t turn enough for us to get there. We basically qualified our race car, I think, and were a bit too conservative (for qualifying). We started the weekend really good – within a couple hundredths of the quick time in Practice 1, but we’ve gone back a bit which is obviously not the goal.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We just lost some grip in the car this afternoon. Things were obviously promising after yesterday’s session and leading the way, but coming into today and the morning session we had promise in the DHL car. We lost a little bit of where we were and tried to retrace our steps. In the end, we had an imbalance in the car and just missed it a bit. We didn’t quite have what I needed to get into the (Firestone) Fast Six. Here in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it all adds up. If you’re off just a little bit in the car it can make a big difference.”

Charlie Kimball: “Pretty disappointed honestly. We made some big improvements this morning and then we seemed to lose our way a little bit this afternoon. We were within like three-hundredths of transferring through to the top 12, which would’ve given us another shot to make the car better. I know there’s more in it for tomorrow, but we missed it a little bit, I missed it a little bit. The nice thing is that we have two sets of Firestone alternates (tires), sticker alternates, plus the scrubbed set from qualifying to use tomorrow. We just need a little bit of strategy and I think we have every opportunity to finish up front.”

Alexander Rossi: “I’m pretty disappointed to miss the (Firestone) Fast Six after running so well this morning. We just went the wrong direction with a change in session and it hurt us in the end. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we have a fast race car so we’ll work to get up front tomorrow.”

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