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Power: “It’s all clicking well” for Team Penske

Written by Archie O’Reilly

Will Power has credited both hard work from Team Chevy and Team Penske after achieving his best street course qualifying finish since the opening race of his championship-winning season in 2022.

Power, who has the most pole positions in NTT IndyCar Series history, missed out on the NTT P1 Award on the streets of Long Beach by only 0.0039 seconds behind Felix Rosenqvist. A second-place finish is his best in a non-oval qualifying session since the championship-sealing weekend at Laguna Seca in 2022. 

“There was not much left on the table,” Power said. “The only thing I could say is a bit into [turn] 10 and the hairpin. You’re not going to see a chunk anywhere - it’s going to be hundredths. That just shows how good of a lap Felix did, how tight it is in this series.”

The margin behind Rosenqvist was the tightest since the current Fast Six format came into play in 2008. Only two non-oval front rows have been closer-matched in the last 16 years, both coming in the last three years.

“That’s been the story of the last two years,” Power said. “One of the data engineers said if we added up all the time you missed getting in the Fast Six, it would be two-tenths. At St. Pete, I missed the Fast Six by 21-thousandths. One day it’s not going to be that far… we are going to have a bunch of poles by 21-thousandths. It ebbs and flows.”

Penske struggled in road and street course qualifying in 2023, with Power only reaching the Fast Six once despite his qualifying prowess. Power's teammate Josef Newgarden, who has qualified one place behind Power at Long Beach, only reached the Fast Six three times. With Newgarden taking pole in St. Petersburg, there has been clear qualifying improvement .

“It’s a couple of things,” Power said on what has enabled this progress. “I think the engine’s better - I think Chevy did some really good work in the off-season. As a team, we’ve worked hard on street and road course setups. 

“Overall actually we were kind of disappointed with the season, even though the team won the 500. We’re just stronger overall. I’ve personally worked hard. I’m sure the other two boys, they’re working hard as well. I think it’s all clicking well.”

Power did not have the most straightforward Saturday en-route to qualifying second. The morning practice session saw him twice hit the wall on the exit of turn eight. Repairs were initially made to a broken left-rear corner before Power again struck the concrete and slid front wing-first into the opposite wall.

“All I was doing was damaging the toe link,” Power said. “I was so sideways. It bent the toe link - done it three times [over the weekend]. It just lights up out of there.”

There have been some alterations made to the corner since IndyCar’s last visit to Long Beach, eradicating its formerly bumpy nature and making it a lot quicker. This has been to the liking of drivers, even with Power having a few incidents at that part of the track.

“It’s much nicer,” he said. “Now it’s really nice and smooth. A really cool corner.”

But Power did have his few issues getting it right and admitted “the last lap was the best” in qualifying after gradually getting “better and better and better and better” through the weekend’s sessions. 

“It just made it so you can get on the throttle earlier, so you have more power when you’re getting out near the wall,” he said. “I keep testing it. You should lift a little - you’ll crash otherwise.”

Power is feeling confident and issues in practice did not detract or distract Power from the speed in his No.12 car. He is enjoying the “light rear” in a car that has undergone weight reduction in anticipation of the introduction of the hybrid power unit, intended to be in July. He described it as “more nimble” and easier to “hustle more simply” without losing time.

“I’m having more fun because I’m going faster, honestly,” Power said. “I’ve been quick all year, even in testing. Everywhere I have been quick. St. Pete qualifying… I didn’t put it together, went the wrong way on the setup. I’ve worked pretty hard in the off-season - I’ve continually worked hard my whole career. 

“I’m still working extremely hard on all my driving details, constantly improving and evolving. It’s never-ending for me. Enjoying it. I love the competition. It’s tough extracting the most out of yourself. You get to compete with different eras of guys.”

Power’s belief extends to faith that the team will be on pole for the Indianapolis 500 in May. He bordered on intent that this will be the case for one of their cars, speaking in the post-qualifying press conference at Long Beach - shortly over one week after the rain-curtailed Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) Open Test.

“I feel like we have a great shot because we’ve worked so hard,” Power said. “I don’t think we’ve left anything on the table. I’ve said that for the last five years. I haven’t said we'd be on pole - I’ve said we have a good shot. This year I really feel like we’ve put everything together. I feel like one of our cars have a great shot at pole, if not all on the front row.”

Penske were strong in qualifying on ovals in 2023 amid road and street course struggles, albeit their speed on qualifying weekend at the Indy 500 did not see them threaten for pole. But there is confidence that they will be able to match their race performance over one lap. Such that Power has even forecast what his qualifying speed will be…

“I think my pole will be like 236.5 [miles per hour] - my quickest lap - averaging in the 35s.”


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