Power supplants Hildebrand to score Iowa pole

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The pendulum swung back from Helio Castroneves to Will Power winning poles in the Verizon IndyCar Series 2017 season in qualifying for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Power took this pole though not from Castroneves, but JR Hildebrand, ruining a potential fairytale story where Hildebrand could have secured his first career pole on the same day he had an accident earlier in the day in practice.

Hildebrand had the top spot with a two-lap average speed of 183.811 mph, which held up for nine further cars after going out 11th, in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

But Power not only beat that speed, but obliterated it, with his two-lap average of 185.210 – a full 1.3 mph quicker than Hildebrand – as the last driver out in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The pole is Power’s fourth of the year and 48th of his career. Although considering neither a polesitter nor Team Penske has won in the 10 previous races at Iowa Speedway, perhaps it’s not the best place to be starting.

“It was actually a good day to be the last one out,” Power said. “The track was very slippery early. I got good feedback from my teammates.  We made a few changes to the car. Our Verizon Chevy was solid. Looking forward to the race tomorrow. Should be hectic because you are always in traffic. Should be a lot of fun.”

Hildebrand was pleased to be back out in his repaired car, which only needed a rear wing change after crashing in Turn 2 in practice. It’s a career-best start for him; his best had been third on the last short oval of the year in Phoenix, where he finished third.

“I’m not sure it was fun. It was exciting!” Hildebrand told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “For us, it’s a lot of credit to the team. It was nice to be back out there and push pretty hard. We were close to the limit.”

Their respective teammates qualified third and fourth, with Castroneves in third and Ed Carpenter in fourth.

Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato leapt from 20th in practice to be best Honda on the grid, fifth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Mikhail Aleshin and Tony Kanaan, old sparring partners earlier this year, line up sixth and seventh with Ed Jones a career-best eighth for Dale Coyne Racing, James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal completing the top 10 on the grid.

Early draws of the first three positions hurt several of the top-five drivers in points. Points leader Scott Dixon went out second and will start 17th; second-placed Simon Pagenaud was first out and will start 11th; fifth-placed Josef Newgarden went out third and will start 16th.

Elsewhere Marco Andretti reported something broke on his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda and was lucky not to crash, only posting a two-lap average of 171.710. Meanwhile Carlos Munoz, in his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet, had a near identical incident to Hildebrand’s in qualifying and lost it exiting Turn 2. He didn’t post a speed and will start last in the 21-car field.

Second practice runs tonight from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m. CT and local time.

Speeds are below.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.