NEWTON, Iowa – Being the last car out to qualify Saturday afternoon paid dividends for Will Power, who captured the Verizon P1 Award for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.
At the wheel of the No. 12 Verizon/Team Penske Chevrolet, Power posted a two-lap average speed of 185.210 mph around the seven-eighths-mile short oval to notch his 48th career Indy car pole, fourth of the season and second at Iowa.
Power’s last pole at Iowa came in 2010, while his two-lap average was nearly two miles per hour faster than second-starting JR Hildebrand.
“It was definitely nerve-racking out there, because when I watched my teammates’ data on the stand and saw the big spikes of oversteer … I thought, ‘Man, we didn’t add enough downforce,’” Power said after his run. “The track came in, though. I’m really, really happy to put the Verizon car on pole.”
Power now moves to within one pole of tying Bobby Unser for fourth all-time. Eight of his 48 career poles have come on ovals.
“It’s just about hard work and bringing out your raw speed when you need it,” Power added. “I love qualifying. It’s a part of the weekend where you push and give everything you can give. Normally Helio’s the guy on pole at these short ovals, so I’m really happy to beat him, but glad he’s right up there as well.”
JR Hildebrand looked to be the man for most of Saturday’s qualifying session, holding court at the front of the field and appearing to have the fast-track to his first-career Indy car pole before Power demolished the field on the final run of the day.
However, Hildebrand’s two-lap average of 183.811 mph in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet was still enough to give the 29-year-old Californian his first-ever front row start, despite a crash in morning practice that forced the team to replace the rear wing.
In addition to that, Hildebrand nearly found the wall on his first flying lap before gathering it up off Turn 2.
“It wasn’t necessarily a lot of fun, but it was certainly exciting,” Hildebrand said of his run. “I think a lot of guys had exciting runs today. It’s a lot of credit to the team, giving me something that I could go back out there and be confident pushing pretty hard with.”
“I got a little squirrely on my first lap, so it let a little speed off there, but we were close to the limit. I think we’ll have something for him tomorrow, for sure. (Team owner) Ed (Carpenter), I think, had it … but for us, we bounced back and I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves put the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet third-fastest with a two-lap average of 183.712 mph, followed by Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet at 183.503 mph.
Carpenter was tracking faster than both Hildebrand and Castroneves on his run, but had to lift exiting Turn 4 coming to the conclusion of his two-lap run and dropped back two spots.
Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (182.653) and Mikhail Aleshin (182.454) make up the third row of the grid.
Tony Kanaan was the fastest Chip Ganassi Racing driver in seventh, while defending race winner Josef Newgarden struggled on his run and ended up 16th overall.
Point leader Scott Dixon will roll off a lowly 17th on the grid, still seeking his first Iowa win.
Carlos Munoz spun exiting Turn 2 and made rear contact with the outside wall on his run. He did not post an official speed and will start last in the 21-car field on Sunday.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…