Power wins fifth Verizon P1 Award of 2015 in Toronto


Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power stormed to his fifth Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 season on Saturday as Penske once again dominated proceedings around the streets of Toronto.

The Australian driver bounced back from nearly missing out on a place in the Fast Six by edging out Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya in the final pole position shootout, securing the 41st pole position of his IndyCar career.

As a result, Power surpassed Rick Mears for fifth place in the all-time IndyCar pole positions list, and has given himself a golden opportunity to convert the result into what would be a much-needed race win on Saturday.

At the start of the session, group one featured a number of possible contenders for pole position and was arguably the more competitive roster with three of the Penske drivers featuring. Pagenaud quickly established his dominance with his first run in the session, being the only man to dip under the one minute mark ahead of teammates Power and Pablo Montoya.

Many of the Honda teams made the switch to the red-ringed softer tires in a bid to make the next stage of qualifying, such was the pace of the Chevrolet-powered teams.

James Jakes was the only driver to break up the Chevy party, squeezing into sixth after Sebastian Saavedra was stripped of his fastest lap for going off-track and bringing out local yellow flags. Predictably, the Penske trio – all posting sub-60 second laps – led the way ahead of Sebastien Bourdais and Luca Filippi, joining Jakes in the top six.

The second group saw Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon set the early pace on the hard Firestone tires, but both opted to make the switch to reds for their second runs along with the rest of the field in a bid to find more grip on the bumpy Toronto street circuit.

Before any of the drivers could get in a second lap time, the session was red flagged after Rodolfo Gonzalez crashed his Dale Coyne Racing car at turn one. As a result, group two was brought to an early end, allowing Kanaan and Dixon to retain their positions at the top.

Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato managed to make it a hat-trick of Honda-powered cars in the next stage of qualifying by finishing third and fourth, and were joined by Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden who rounded out the top six. Jack Hawksworth was the unfortunate driver to finish on the bubble, ending seventh and missing out by just one-tenth of a second.

Montoya managed to rekindle his P1 escapades from practice on Friday by winning the opening salvo in the second stage of qualifying, leading Castroneves and Pagenaud after the first set of runs. Will Power was unable to get a clean lap in early on, leaving him with plenty of work to do towards the end of the session in order to stay in the fight for the Verizon P1 Award.

Yet again, all of the drivers made the switch to the red Firestone tires for their final runs, but it was Montoya who once again managed to top the timesheets. The Colombian finished three-tenths of a second clear of Pagenaud, who performed admirably to make the Fast Six on scrubbed tires.

Will Power managed to hoist himself up into third place by the checkered flag, bumping Penske teammate Helio Castroneves down into seventh place. Sebastian Bourdais and Scott Dixon did enough to get into the final shootout for pole position with P4 and P5, whilst Luca Filippi squeezed into the Fast Six by just 0.0018 seconds.

Montoya and Power wasted little time in laying down an impressive pace at the beginning of the pole position shootout. Both dipped under the one minute mark with their opening lap times, with Montoya holding a slender advantage ahead of the final runs from the six drivers in Toronto.

With his final lap time, Pagenaud managed to pull himself up into top spot with a new fastest lap, appearing to put himself in the frame for pole position. However, Power then produced a scintillating lap of 59.5920 seconds to edge out his teammate and clinch the Verizon P1 Award in Toronto.

The result marks Power’s third pole position in the last four races, and with title rival Montoya starting third, the Australian has given himself a great chance of cutting into the Colombian’s lead at the top of the championship standings on Sunday.

Scott Dixon and Sebastian Bourdais both managed to post a sub-one minute lap time, but had to settle for fourth and fifth at the end of the session. Luca Filippi attempted just a single run in the Fast Six shootout, and finished eight-tenths down on Power in sixth place.

After the session, Power made no secret of his happiness, but remained wary ahead of the long race on Sunday.

“Starting on the pole is great to keep out of any messes, and obviously IndyCar races are never straightforward so it’s just awesome to get the pole,” Power told indycar.com. “It’s a long day [on Sunday] and we’ll see what we can do.

“You’ve got to drive around here. It’s all man-handling because you’ve got those slippery surfaces in the middle of the corners, so you’ve got to be on the wheel a lot.”

The Honda Indy Toronto is live on NBCSN on Sunday from 3pm ET.

Honda Indy Toronto – Qualifying Result

1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 59.4280 (106.314)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 59.6095 (105.990)
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 59.6242 (105.964)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 59.8879 (105.497)
5. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 59.9012 (105.474)
6. (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:00.2312 (104.896)
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 59.8940 (105.486)
8. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 59.9500 (105.388)
9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:00.0901 (105.142)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:00.1241 (105.083)
11. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:00.1323 (105.068)
12. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:00.4576 (104.503)
13. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:00.6849 (104.112)
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:01.4569 (102.804)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:00.8553 (103.820)
16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:01.5959 (102.572)
17. (8) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 01:00.9926 (103.586)
18. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:01.9907 (101.919)
19. (5) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:01.2543 (103.144)
20. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:02.4000 (101.250)
21. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 01:01.5065 (102.721)
22. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:02.4016 (101.247)
23. (18) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 01:05.0167 (97.175)

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

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

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.”