Power wins pole po­si­tion for the Indycar cham­pion-de­cid­ing race

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JENNA FRYER

Will Power isn’t step­ping down as IndyCar cham­pion with- out a fight.

Power won the pole for Sun­day’s ti­tle-de­cid­ing race at Sonoma Race­way by cir­cling the cir­cuit in 1 minute, 16.25 sec­onds. The Aus­tralian heads into the sea­son fi­nale one of six driv­ers math­e­mat­i­cally el­i­gi­ble to win the ti­tle.

But Power is a dis­tant fourth in the stand­ings and trails Team Penske team­mate Juan Pablo Montoya by 61 points.

“Re­ally stoked,” Power said. “I am very happy to end the year with pole po­si­tion.”

Af­ter win­ning the ti­tle last year, Power put a lot of his fo­cus on win­ning the In­di­anapo­lis 500 and came up just short, fin­ish­ing sec­ond to Montoya. In all, he’s got just one vic­tory this year and three podi­ums. It’s Power’s worst sta­tis­ti­cal year since 2009, when he ran just six races.

His thoughts af­ter qual­i­fy­ing just like most of the pad­dock: He took a mo­ment to honor Justin Wil­son, who died this week from a heady in­jury suf­fered last Sun­day at Po­cono Race­way.

Power qual­i­fied Satur­day with a to­ken in his pocket that com­mem­o­rated Wil­son with a nod to the joke that “Justin Wil­son al­ways had two-tenths (of a sec­ond) in his back pocket.”

“Wil­son, man, he was the one who could al­ways get twotenths out of a bad car,” Power said af­ter bump­ing Josef Newgar­den from the pole. “Nicest guy on pit lane. Ev­ery time I think about it, it just makes me so sad. We’re go­ing to honor him in the right way with a good, clean race.”

Newgar­den, who has long­est shot at win­ning ti­tle, qual­i­fied sec­ond.

Ryan Hunter- Reay, the win­ner last week at Po­cono, qual­i­fied third but is not el­i­gi­ble for the cham­pi­onship. Nei­ther is Si­mon Pa­ge­naud, the the who qual­i­fied fourth.

Montoya will start fifth, one spot ahead of Graham Ra­hal. Montoya holds a 34-point lead over Ra­hal go­ing into Sun­day, a race that will be worth dou­ble points.

“That’s all we had,” Montoya said. “We did what we needed to do.”

Four of the six con­tenders ad­vanced to the fi­nal fast six round of qual­i­fy­ing.

Scott Dixon didn’t make it out of the group of 12 and will start ninth; He­lio Cas­tron­eves failed to ad­vance out of the first round and will start 15th.

Dixon had a fast car, but couldn’t put to­gether a clean qual­i­fy­ing lap.

“We need to get some­thing go­ing our way be­cause start­ing ninth is not go­ing to cut it,” said Dixon, who felt he failed to ad­vance be­cause he hit “a whole pile of dirt,” on the track sur­face as he drove through turn 6.

“I got into there when there was ob­vi­ously too much dirt, and got in there too hot,” he said.

This rocky IndyCar sea­son will come to an end Sun­day and teams and driv­ers will scat­ter all over the world to be­gin to prop­erly mourn Wil­son. Fu­neral ar­range­ments have not yet been an­nounced for the 37-year-old Bri­tish driver, and this week­end of rac­ing was a tem­po­rary respite from the grief many have suf­fered from the last week.

But the mourn­ing has con­tin­ued, and there was a poignant mo­ment ear­lier Satur­day when Roger Penske was in­ducted to the Sonoma Race­way Wall of Fame. As he was pre­sented with his plaque, the scion of mo­tor­sports made a re­quest: He wanted Justin Wil­son’s name in­scribed on the Penske plaque.

“I wouldn’t let this day go by with­out hav­ing his name on that plaque with me,” Penske said about Wil­son, “be­cause he’s one of the great guys. We lose a great friend and a com­peti­tor, and we need to honor him also.”

The six cham­pi­onship con­tenders have tried this week to pro­mote the ti­tle-de­cid­ing race, and Satur­day’s qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion felt like the driv­ers had re­turned to nor­malcy.

Sun­day’s race is worth dou­ble points, so Montoya’s 34-point lead over Graham Ra­hal isn’t ex­actly se­cure.

But the Colom­bian con­trols his own des­tiny: The ti­tle is his if he fin­ishes third or bet­ter, and he only needs to fin­ish fourth or bet­ter if Ra­hal wins the race.

Ra­hal, the only rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the cham­pi­onship race of a sin­gle-car team, is headed into Sun­day with ev­ery in­ten­tion of win­ning the race. He’s up against three Team Penske driv­ers, one from Chip Ganassi Rac­ing and one from CFH Rac­ing.

Ra­hal is the only Honda driver in a con­tenders group that in­cludes five Chevy guys. Asked if he ex­pected Honda’s other driv­ers to as­sist him on track Sun­day, Ra­hal noted he was wrecked last week by a Honda driver.

The in­ci­dent with Tris­tan Vau­tier knocked Ra­hal out of the race and his deficit was bumped from nine points to 34.

“We’re go­ing to do the best we can. I’m sure Honda is not go­ing to want any of the other cars to play a role in the cham­pi­onship,” Ra­hal said. “At the same time, ev­ery­body is out here to com­pete. I don’t ex­pect any­body to help me out or give us any­thing.”

Dixon sits third in the stand­ings, and wins the cham­pi­onship with a vic­tory and Montoya fin­ish­ing lower than sixth. The three-time IndyCar cham­pion has two wins this sea­son.

“We need a few things to work in our fa­vor,” Dixon said.

Power sits fourth and He­lio Cas­tron­eves is fifth as both Team Penske driv­ers have trailed team­mate Montoya all year. Power has just one vic­tory on the sea­son, while Cas­tron­eves is win­less.

“If there’s a chance, it’s pos­si­ble,” Cas­tron­eves said.

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