Through two rounds of the 2019 season, Will Power is the only pole sitter IndyCar has known. With a lap of 1 minute, 46.018 seconds, he outpaced Alexander Rossi (1:46.176) to win the 56th pole of his career and will lead the field to green at Circuit of the Americas (1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN).
“That last lap was very neat,” Power said on NBCSN after the session was completed. “I finally breathed by the time I got to the start/finish line.”
Last week, Power set a fast early pace, but finished third on the Streets of St. Petersburg. This week he has 100,000 reasons to stay in the lead until the checkers wave with a $100,000 bonus on the line. The bonus from the track was announced Friday prior to practice.
Rossi was .159 seconds behind in second and knew precisely where he lost the time.
“The thing that’s bothersome is that it was a good lap, but (Power) has nearly 60 poles for a reason,” Rossi said. “I missed it a bit in the final corner to open the lap, so I knew I was climbing an uphill battle from there.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:46.323) rounded out the top three.
Rookie contender Colton Herta (1:46.359) makes it would appear practice may be overrated. He missed most of Friday after blowing an engine in Practice 1. Herta got a few laps on track with the soft red tires during an added session for pit stop practice and as a result had an idea of what to expect in Saturday’s time trials. That allowed him to post the fourth-fastest time.
Chip Ganassi teammate Felix Rosenqvist (1:46.568) and Scott Dixon (1:46.938) will line up on row three.
“I haven’t really gelled with the track,” Dixon said after qualification. “It’s been frustrating even with the test we had here. It hasn’t been for a lack of laps. … The car has speed. We’ve seen that through (teammate) Felix.”
Round 1 proved to be critical for several of the top drivers. In Group 1, Jack Harvey spun in the closing moments, which caught Sebastian Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe on track and unable to complete their fastest lap. They both failed to advance to Round 2.
In Group 2, Tony Kanaan spun with 30 seconds remaining to bring out the red flag. As a result, he lost his two fastest laps and did not advance to Round 2. The incident also caught out Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.
It was the second time in two races that Bourdais and Pagenaud were unable to advance because of red flags in Round 1.
Josef Newgarden benefitted from the incident. He was posted seventh at the time of the red flag, but moved up one spot and advanced to Round 2 with Kanaan’s penalty.
Newgarden could not quite find the speed to advance to the Fast Six.
“We knew it was going to be tight once the weekend progressed,” Newgarden said on NBCSN after failing to advance to the Fast Six. “And it just wasn’t enough; it wasn’t a good enough lap. I missed a bit to start the lap in (Turn) 19. You have to take a lot of risks with the way we’re running it.”
IndyCar removed track limits from Turn 19, allowing drivers to go over the curb and into a wide run-off area to keep their momentum up.