TORONTO (AP) — Will Power secured his 41st career pole position just in the nick of time.
The defending IndyCar champion drove the fastest lap in the sixth round of qualifying Saturday for the race. He completed the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit in 59.4280 seconds, finishing with just 5 seconds remaining in the 10-minute final segment of knockout qualifications.
Power earned his second straight pole and fifth this season to move past Rick Mears into fifth on the all-time IndyCar list. Penske teammate Helio Castroneves is the active leader with 43.
“I didn’t expect it, I thought I’d be fourth, fifth or sixth because I was lucky to get through,” Power said. “I changed my setup drastically between every single (qualifying) session and ended up with what I had.
“It (the pole) definitely keeps you out of trouble in the first couple of corners. IndyCar races are so mixed up it really doesn’t matter where you start almost. I need to have a good day (Sunday). I’ve had some rough races recently, so I really want to get it done.”
Power will chase a third career victory at Toronto, winning previously in ’07 and 2010.
Simon Pagenaud, another Penske teammate, will join Power on the front row after finishing second in 59.6095. It’s Pagenaud’s second straight front-row start and fourth this season.
This marks the fourth race this season that Power and Pagenaud have started on the front row.
Juan Pablo Montoya (59.6242) and Scott Dixon (59.8879) will start in the second row ahead of Sebastien Bourdais (59.9012) and Luca Filippi (one minute 0.2312 seconds).
Earlier, Castroneves posted the fastest time in the final practice session. He covered the course in 59.6424 seconds, just ahead of Penske teammate Montoya (59.8320).
Montoya was quickest in Friday’s lone practice run as the second session was washed out by rain. Montoya, the circuit’s leading driver this season and Indianapolis 500 winner, was pleased to secure his best career start at Toronto.
“I thought I had a really good car and I just didn’t put a good lap together when it counted,” Montoya said. “But I still qualified third, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
Dixon, who won the Toronto doubleheader in 2013, arrived here fresh off winning last weekend in Texas. The New Zealand native is sporting a Jurassic Park paint scheme on his car and offered a funny comparison when describing how the vehicle performed throughout qualifying.
“It (Texas win) obviously helps, and for team morale it’s a good thing, but this weekend it actually feels like I’ve been driving a dinosaur,” he said. “We had an electrical issue at the start of the weekend and had to come in and change batteries every two laps.
“We made wholescale changes even through qualifying; each session we’ve been changing a lot, so it’s not been a smooth weekend for us. But I think the car has potential speed.”
Bourdais, who won the first race of last year’s Toronto doubleheader, said it’s been a tough weekend so far for his team.
“‘I can’t get a real feel for the car, the bumps are much harder than they were last year . . . particularly in Turn 1,” he said. “It’s a big challenge and I just make mistakes one after the other.
“For some reason or another we just don’t seem to be as strong as we were last year. At least we made the fast six and put ourselves on the map to have a decent run (Sunday).”
But with Sunday’s forecast calling for rain throughout the day, Bourdais wasn’t hopeful he and the other 22 drivers in the field will enjoy an easy race.
“For sure when this place gets wet I wouldn’t call it fun,” he said. “It’s kind of survival, so we’ll see.”
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