IndyCar: Power secures pivotal third pole of season in Milwaukee

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Will Power captured an important and pivotal third pole of the season for Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet laid down the only two-lap average north of 169 mph, with a 169.262 enough to secure the pole position.

Power went out ninth in the 22-car field and like a handful of others, just caught the cloud cover over the Milwaukee Mile at just the right time.

“Yeah, I definitely wasn’t expecting those sort of speeds,” Power said. “Based on practice, we were expecting 22-second laps. Yeah, the car was very solid. Obviously had the information of my two teammates before me of which direction the balance went.

“Didn’t have to adjust the car much. Yeah, just good laps. I didn’t expect to be on pole, but I thought I’d be somewhere at the front.”

Behind him, Tony Kanaan qualified second in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, as he seeks his third Milwaukee win (2006, 2007) and first win this season. If Kanaan breaks through, he’d become the 11th different winner of 2014, which would tie a North American open-wheel record (2000, 2001 in CART).

“I think we have a pretty good chance. Like you said, the four cars are extremely strong,” Kanaan said. “We’re in the front row. We’ve been showing how quick we’ve been, how good we’ve been everywhere. We’ve just really got to get a little bit of luck on our side sometime. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll challenge Will and some of the guys.

“I think we have a good car and a chance to win.”

The pair of Chevrolets lead a Chevy-dominated top 10, where only three Hondas broke in after pacing most of practice.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Briscoe are on Row 2 – both are prior Milwaukee winners (2000, CART and 2008, IndyCar, respectively).

Josef Newgarden was the best-qualifying Honda in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, now featuring Direct Supply primary sponsorship this weekend, in P5. Charlie Kimball posted a Milwaukee-best sixth on the grid.

Ed Carpenter and Power’s Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves make up Row 4 with Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato, the latter of whom has his primary sponsor ABC Supply Co. as the race sponsor, completing the top 10.

James Hinchcliffe, who led both practice sessions, qualified 13th in his repaired No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, which required an all-hands-on-deck effort from the Andretti Autosport crew. Andretti’s team collectively missed the setup in qualifying with none of their cars making the top eight.

Other title hopefuls Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled, clocking in at 16th and 19th on the grid respectively. They’ll have an uphill battle to stay in the championship frame from those grid positions; Pagenaud is now 65, Hunter-Reay 64 points behind Power heading into Sunday.

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Qualifying Saturday for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 169.262
2. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 168.662
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 168.579
4. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 168.266
5. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 168.233
6. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 168.123
7. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 167.775
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 167.561
9. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 167.079
10. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 166.915
11. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 166.742
12. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 166.501
13. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 166.195
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 166.032
15. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 165.851
16. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 165.818
17. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 165.614
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 164.421
19. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 164.211
20. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 164.013
21. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 162.535
22. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 159.787

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”