Damage control: Despite late spin, Will Power retains IndyCar points lead (VIDEO)

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Team Penske’s Will Power may have had a trying afternoon in Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, but it didn’t impact his Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead all that much.

Power was one of multiple drivers that fell victim to a partially wet, partially dry NRG Park circuit when he lost control and spun into the tires at Turn 9 to bring out a caution with 28 minutes left in the race.

But while he wound up 14th at one lap off the pace, his closest rival in the championship and teammate Helio Castroneves finished ninth after starting on the front row.

As a result, Power’s 39-point lead over Castroneves going into today was only shrunk slightly to 33 points ahead of tomorrow’s second race in Houston (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

You figure Power will gladly take that after today. He was unable to get out of the first round of this morning’s qualifying session and had to start 18th. Then in the race, he was never able to make much progress.

Castroneves was running third at the time of Power’s spin behind James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais. However, those three along with others in the lead pack pitted under the caution, while Wilson, eventual race winner Carlos Huertas, and six others stayed out for track position.

In the race off pit road, Castroneves was fourth and had to line up 12th for the restart with 21 minutes left behind those that stayed out plus Hinchcliffe, Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Brazilian still managed a Top-10 in the end, but perhaps today was a missed opportunity for him.

As for Hunter-Reay, he finished seventh and cut his own championship deficit to Power from 60 points to 50; he remains third in the table ahead of fourth-place Simon Pagenaud (finished 16th today), who is 91 points out.

Juan Pablo Montoya, by virtue of his second-place performance behind Huertas, moved up two positions to fifth in points. He is 123 points behind Penske teammate Power.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III