Will Power earns 52nd career IndyCar pole to start No. 1 at Iowa

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Even though he won the Indianapolis 500 in May, Will Power needed a big lift after DNFs in the last two Verizon IndyCar races (at Texas Motor Speedway and Road America).

Power got that in Saturday’s qualifying, taking the pole position for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 (2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at Iowa Speedway with an average speed of 182.391 mph.

“I had to lift late in the corner, a little bit loose in one and two,” Power told the INDYCAR Radio Network. “That was about all I had.”

It’s Power’s 52nd career IndyCar pole and his fourth at Iowa, including his second straight.

“I love this place, it’s a real tough boring little oval,” Power said. “I’ve been trying to win this one for so long. I’m obviously starting the race in a good spot.”

Power then added with a chuckle, “It’s a big year for me if I win the Indianapolis 500 and at Iowa. If I was looking at a list of things to do, that would almost top the list.”

Power led a Team Penske onslaught, as Josef Newgarden (181.160 mph) qualified No. 2 and Simon Pagenaud (180.313 mph) will start Sunday’s race from the No. 4 spot.

“We had a real good lap,” Newgarden said. “Just missed it. Starting on the front row is a good job for Team Penske.”

Andretti Autosport grabbed the third and fifth positions.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won three times at Iowa Speedway, qualified third (180.681 mph).

Alexander Rossi (179.801 mph) qualified fifth, while points leader Scott Dixon (179.526 mph) – who has never won at Iowa in 11 starts – qualified sixth.

Canadian rookie Robert Wickens (178.883 mph) will start seventh.

“I’m pretty happy,” Wickens told the INDYCAR Radio Network. “I was worried that I wouldn’t even crack the top-10.”

Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers were Ed Jones (178.720 mph), Ed Carpenter (178.717), Takuma Sato (178.708).

Eleventh through 20th were James Hinchcliffe (178.478), Graham Rahal (178.410), Tony Kanaan (178.008), Zach Veach (177.809), Sebastien Bourdais (177.681), Gabby Chaves (176.466), Charlie Kimball (176.245), Spencer Pigot (175.210), Marco Andretti (174.548) and Zachary Claman De Melo (174.339).

Wrapping up the 22-car field were Max Chilton (173.449) in 21st and Matheus Leist (168.724) in 22nd.

There was one near-miss in Turns 3 and 4 when James Hinchcliffe almost lost control of his car.

“Not ideal on a qualifying effort, for sure,” Hinchcliffe told the IndyCar Radio Network. “It caught me a little bit coming off Turn 4. I had to keep my foot in it and hope I could hold on.”

Results are below.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.