Will Power’s mastery of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying was not to be overcome as the grid was set for this year’s edition of the series’ visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, with the Team Penske driver surfacing in a diverse Firestone Fast 6.
- Results: 2018 INDYCAR Grand Prix Qualifying
Given the 24-car field, each of Round 1’s groups were split evenly into 12. Group 1 saw Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens atop the timesheet after one lap, at the halfway point and at the conclusion of the 10-minute session.
Wickens’ teammate James Hinchcliffe came closest to matching the pace with a 1:09.8244, which was good enough for second in the group but more than three-tenths slower than his teammate.
Ed Carpenter Racing was strong in the group as well, with Spencer Pigot and Jordan King locking out the third- and fourth-fastest times, allowing them to advance to Round 2 along with Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Jones, Graham Rahal, Zachary Claman De Melo, Matheus Leist and Charlie Kimball placed seventh through 12th in the group and did not move on to Round 2.
Gabby Chaves, on red-sidewalled Firestone alternate tires, was fastest in Group 2 after his first and second laps and held on to the top spot at the halfway point.
Once the rest of the group switched from primary to alternate tires, Power and Sebastien Bourdais traded fastest laps atop the running order. At the session’s conclusion, a 1:09.5510 lap from Bourdais retained its status as the fastest revolution of the 2.429-mile road course.
Similar to Group 1, three-tenths of a second separated the Dale Coyne Racing driver from the second-fastest driver. With a 1:09.8557, Penske’s Power secured his advancement to Round 2.
Joining Bourdais and Power in the top six were Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi.
Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti narrowly missed advancing with a lap just 0.0448 seconds slower than Rossi’s. Max Chilton, Scott Dixon, Zach Veach, Chaves and Kyle Kaiser also failed to make the cut.
Wickens surfaced early in Round 2 when the majority of the 12 cars were fitted with primary tires. Just before the five-minute mark, however, Sato popped to the top of the leaderboard with a 1:10.7336.
Once on alternate Firestone rubber, Wickens continued to lead the way in Round 2 and ended the session with a 1:09.8481. Fellow rookie King’s best lap was marginally slower, advancing both first-year IndyCar drivers into the Firestone Fast 6.
While inexperience prevailed, experience also proved its value in Round 2 with six Indy car championships being amassed among the remainder of the top six. Power was third followed by Hinchcliffe, Bourdais and Newgarden.
Pagenaud missed the cutoff by 0.0315 seconds and was joined by Rossi, Pigot, Castroneves, Sato and Kanaan in failing to move out of Round 2.
Firestone Fast 6
Through the first four minutes of the six-minute Firestone Fast 6, only Power was represented on the leaderboard with a timed lap.
Once he was joined by the other five drivers, both Bourdais and Wickens spent time as the fastest driver in the session.
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At the checkered flag, Wickens held on to the provisional pole but was bested by Power whose 1:09.8182 earned the Penske driver his third pole on the IMS road course.
The achievement marked Power’s 51st career pole, breaking a tie with Castroneves. Additionally, Power becomes the fifth different pole winner in as many races this year.
Power, the lone driver to participate in every Firestone Fast 6 held thus far in 2018, has gone on to win the race in his two other starts from pole at this circuit.
Wickens’ 1:09.9052, less than a tenth of a second slower than Power’s lap, earned him a front-row start. Bourdais and Hinchcliffe qualified on the second row while King and Newgarden will share Row 3.
Newgarden was separated by a considerable margin from the five other Firestone Fast 6 drivers. Beyond being 0.9094 seconds slower than the lap that earned Power the pole, the reigning IndyCar champion was more than half a second back from fifth-placed King.
The field will take to the track once more before the fifth race of the year, with a morning warm-up outing scheduled for 11:15–11:45 a.m. EDT. After live television coverage opens at 3:30 p.m., the green flag will fly at 3:50 p.m. to begin the 85-lap race.