Power flies to Mid-Ohio pole (VIDEO)

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The stage is set for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 (3 p.m. ET, CNBC) from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the top seven in points starting in the top seven positions, with fifth-placed Will Power on the pole position.

It’s the fifth pole of the season for the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, having lapped the 2.258-mile track in 1:04.1720. The pole is his 49th of his career, tied for fourth all-time with Bobby Unser.

Power surprisingly has not won at Mid-Ohio and at a 64-point gap to the lead (423-359), could use his first one Sunday to keep his title hopes alive.

Josef Newgarden rolls off second in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, clocking in at 1:04.3067, for his first front row start this year.

Takuma Sato was an impressive third in the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport, with Graham Rahal fourth in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda, and Helio Castroneves fifth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Points leader Scott Dixon again made the Firestone Fast Six, continuing his run of making every one this season, and will roll off from sixth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda as he seeks his sixth win at Mid-Ohio.

In Q1, Group 1, Pagenaud led at 1:04.3597 while Takuma Sato, Castroneves, Esteban Gutierrez, James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly made it into Q2. This marks the first time Gutierrez and Daly have made Q2 this season; Daly’s best start this year is 10th at Detroit race two, but that was an alternative qualifying format rather than the traditional knockout stages.

Tony Kanaan caused a local yellow that affected another car (Hinchcliffe) and would lose his fastest lap as a result.

Kanaan’s teammate Charlie Kimball, rookie Ed Jones and JR Hildebrand were also knocked out, Kimball the closest to advancing as his 1:04.9930 lap was only 0.03 off Daly’s best time.

Rahal topped Group 2 at 1:04.1938, the track having gotten a little bit faster, ahead of Newgarden, Power, Rossi, Dixon and Hunter-Reay in a stacked group.

Not even four tenths off Rahal, Marco Andretti was first to miss out in this group at 1:04.5929, a little over a tenth behind Hunter-Reay, while Spencer Pigot, Max Chilton, Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin were also eliminated.

The race to make the Firestone Fast Six out of Q2 was even tighter. Just 0.1732 of a second separated the Fast Six, which included six of the top seven in points. Rahal led at 1:04.0828 ahead of Sato (1:04.1847), Newgarden (1:04.1920), Power (1:04.2505), Castroneves (1:05.2536) and Dixon (1:05.2560); Dixon maintains his run as the only driver to make the Fast Six every race this year.

Knocked out were Pagenaud, Hinchcliffe, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Daly and Gutierrez. Just two tenths separated Dixon in sixth from Hunter-Reay in this group.

Power then dominated in the Fast Six qualifying session, and was never headed en route to the pole.

The provisional grid is below.

RESULTS

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:04.1720 (126.672)
2. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:04.3067 (126.407)
3. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:04.6792 (125.679)
4. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:04.7959 (125.452)
5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:04.8485 (125.351)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:05.1927 (124.689)
7. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:04.3008 (126.418)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:04.3784 (126.266)
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:04.4906 (126.046)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:04.4928 (126.042)
11. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:04.8745 (125.300)
12. (18) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 01:05.0368 (124.988)
13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:04.9930 (125.072)
14. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:04.5929 (125.847)
15. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:05.0337 (124.994)
16. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:04.6186 (125.797)
17. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:05.3200 (124.446)
18. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:04.8603 (125.328)
19. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:05.3382 (124.411)
20. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:04.9440 (125.166)
21. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:05.2441 (124.591)

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.