Lexington, Ohio (August 2, 2014) – Will Power led Team Penske by qualifying in the sixth position during the Saturday afternoon qualifying session for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Power, who enters Sunday’s race just 13 points behind teammate Helio Castroneves in the chase for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, was the only Team Penske driver to make it into the Firestone Fast Six final session during a rainy day of qualifying.
Castroneves was not able to advance past the first qualifying session, which was interrupted twice by red flags. He’ll start 15th Sunday at Mid-Ohio, where he won in 2000 and 2001. Juan Pablo Montoya showed good speed after posting the fastest lap in the first group of the first qualifying session, but a penalty in the second session dropped him in the order. The 1999 Mid-Ohio race winner will start 11th on Sunday.
Power was clocked at 1:26.1692 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet/Dallara around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. It marked the eighth time in 15 races this season that Power earned a starting spot among the top six cars.
"It was really slick out there today, so I was really glad that the Verizon Chevy team finished in the Firestone Fast Six,” said Power. “I'm hoping for drier weather tomorrow, though. I feel pretty comfortable with the car and thought we were really fast out there today, despite the wet conditions so hopefully we can get a podium finish - or a win - and jump back into the points lead."
Montoya had recorded the fastest lap of the second session, but that time was erased when he spun on track and caused a red flag on the ensuing lap. He returned to the track in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet and was clocked at 1:34.7103, which wasn’t fast enough to advance to the Fast Six session.
“The No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet was actually pretty good,” said Montoya. “I was really enjoying myself, but then again I love to be sliding around. When I’m sideways I’m comfortable. For me I was just trying to get two laps in that were quicker than my first lap to try to get into the next round. I got to (Simon) Pagenaud and tried to get around him, but I got a little too greedy. The spin and the red flag meant that we were going to lose our two fastest laps of the session so there wasn’t much we could do at that point. But the Hawk Performance Chevy was good. We finished P1 in the first session so I know it has good speed.”
In the troublesome first session, Castroneves wasn’t able to get in a quality lap at speed in the rain. Instead, he recorded a fast lap of 1:39.8694 in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet and failed to advance to the second session.
“The No. 3 Hitachi Chevy has been improving each time we got on the track, getting better in each session,” said Castroneves. “Unfortunately the qualifying session was a bit crazy. Not only was it wet, there were so many yellows that we only got one timed lap in. At the end of the day it was the same for everyone. We were the first car out and tried some different lines. Sometimes that is not the best place to be. It gives the other guys some direction on where to run. It is what it is, though. We’ll just have to keep working and hope the race tomorrow is better than qualifying.”
The race is expected to go a long way in determining the Team Penske teammates’ standing in the championship heading into the final three races of the 2014 season later this month. While Castroneves leads Power by 13 points, Montoya is in fifth place, 105 behind Castroneves and 92 points behind Power.
“I don’t think anyone can afford to come into this weekend and say they need to be strategic or thinking about this or that,” continued Castroneves. “It’s only 100 points difference between among the top five. There is still a long way to go.”
After Sunday’s race, just Milwaukee, Wisc. (Aug. 17), Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 24) and Fontana, Calif. (Aug. 30) remain on the schedule.
The NBC Sports Network broadcast of the Honda Indy 200 will begin at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.