LONG POND – The top-three finishers in last year’s ABC Supply 500 race ended up in the same exact spots after Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying at Pocono Raceway.
Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi were the three-fastest drivers during the session, as Power claimed his first Pocono pole with a two-lap average speed of 219.511 mph.
“It’s great to start at the front here,” Power said. “I think it will be a bit of a track position race and that’s what we need to get our championship back on track.”
Power tied four-time Pocono winner A.J. Foyt with his 53rd career pole as he was one of four drivers to knock off teammate Simon Pagenaud from the top spot. The two-time defending winner of the race enters this weekend’s event 87 points behind leader Scott Dixon with four races to go.
“I’ll be doing everything I can,” Power said of the title chase. “Obviously it’s a big points deficit. The last race is double points, so we’ll see. If we can close within 30 or something, we’ll have a good shot.”
His Penske teammate and championship competitor Josef Newgarden finished second last year at Pocono and dipped into the 218 mph range for his qualifying run. Newgarden is the defending champion of the series and currently sits third in the IndyCar standings.
“I think we did a good job with the set up, it’s just that’s about what we had, speed-wise. The guys did a good job,” Newgarden said. “We get a one-two lock-out on the front row. That’s good. We can’t be disappointed. We’ll have the Verizon car and the Hitachi car up there. I think that’s what we had. I’m pretty happy with our run. That was our speed.”
The 2016 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi, slotted in third, leading the Andretti Autosport camp. Rossi out-qualified teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay by nearly a mile-per-hour to cap off an all-Andretti second row.
“Definitely happy with the qualifying run today for the NAPA Andretti team,” Rossi said. “It was a disjointed first practice for us, so to be in the second row as top Honda and have Ryan right next to us is a good day. This is a fun racetrack and we have a long way to go tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud completed the top-five while rookie sensation Robert Wickens qualified an impressive sixth for his Pocono debut. Wickens nearly won the season opener at St. Petersburg until a late-race incident put him out of the running. Since then, the Canadian-born driver is sixth in points in his first IndyCar season.
“This morning was a struggle,” Wickens said about Pocono. “We actually had a really tough first practice, we just couldn’t find clear air and I didn’t really know what balance we had… hats off to everyone at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports; the Lucas Oil car was great and James Hinchcliffe’s Arrow car was quick, as well.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series only got one practice session in Saturday with rookie Zach Veach leading the way in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport machine. The speed wasn’t a surprise, since Veach drives for the same team that won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with Japanese driver Takuma Sato.
The green flag for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 drops shortly after 2 p.m. and can be seen live on NBC Sports Network.
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