Power on pole in Penske top-four sweep of St. Petersburg qualifying

1 Comment

ST. PETERSBURG – Will Power continued his weekend dominance to date with a new track record and the opening Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Power, who scored four consecutive St. Petersburg poles from 2010 to 2013, won last year after starting fourth.

He dropped a 1:00.6931 in the Firestone Fast Six to lead yet another session on the weekend and secure the pole position in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, as all four of Roger Penske’s cars made it into the Fast Six, and then completed a sweep of the front two rows.

The order behind him included his teammate Simon Pagenaud, second on debut for the team, 2014 race winners Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, and past St. Petersburg polesitters Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais.

Q1 witnessed Power eclipse a 12-year-old track record, with a 1:00.8344 on Firestone’s red alternate tires breaking Sebastien Bourdais’ previous mark of 1:00.928, set in the single Champ Car race held on the streets of St. Petersburg in 2003.

Sato, Tony Kanaan, Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Simona de Silvestro advanced from Group 1 in Q1, with all their best times within a two-tenth gap (1:01.3370 to 1:01.5475) all on the reds.

Times improved in the second group in Q1, albeit with a greater gap among the top six (1:00.8344 to 1:01.4272). Power, Castroneves and Montoya made it three more Penske drivers through, with Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and Bourdais also through.

Among those axed in Q1 included past St. Petersburg race winners Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe, and all first-year drivers Stefano Coletti, Luca Filippi, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves and Francesco Dracone.

The defending series champion wasn’t done, though. Power banked a 1:00.6509 in Q2 to improve his own new track record by two tenths.

Power led all four Penske drivers into the Firestone Fast Six, with Pagenaud second, Montoya fifth and Castroneves sixth. Bourdais and Sato were the two interlopers, with Sato the lone Honda in the Fast Six.

Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Newgarden, de Silvestro and Andretti were eliminated. A brief review of an incident with Kanaan and Pagenaud occurred, with no action taken.

In the Firestone Fast Six, Castroneves set the early mark of 1:01.2201 before the final few minutes witnessed the drivers go for broke.

Power was first into the 1:00 range in the session, at 1:00.7582, before teammate Pagenaud beat him at 1:00.7252.

But Power beat him back with the ultimate pole time of 1:00.6931, which was slightly off his Q2 track record.

He and his longtime rival will share the front row with Castroneves and Montoya completing the top-four sweep. Sato and Bourdais were fifth and sixth.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.6931 (106.767)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.7252 (106.710)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.8356 (106.517)
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.8532 (106.486)
5. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.1496 (105.970)
6. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.1545 (105.961)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.1182 (106.024)
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.1670 (105.939)
9. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.2285 (105.833)
10. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.2478 (105.800)
11. (25) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.3657 (105.596)
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.4765 (105.406)
13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.5727 (105.241)
14. (26) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.4890 (105.385)
15. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.5742 (105.239)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.5780 (105.232)
17. (4) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.6727 (105.071)
18. (8) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.8011 (104.853)
19. (20) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.6736 (105.069)
20. (7) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.8323 (104.800)
21. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.0095 (104.500)
22. (98) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9705 (104.566)
23. (19) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 01:04.2654 (100.832)
24. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9716 (104.564)

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
0 Comments

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”