Knowing he needed a strong finish to win the pole at the Baltimore Grand Prix, Will Power summoned every bit of his racing ability Saturday against front-runner Graham Rahal.
Power used a late surge to earn his seventh pole of the season, a point in the Izod IndyCar Series standings and some peace of mind heading into Sunday’s race on a difficult street course.
“The final run was absolutely everything I had in me. It was exhausting,” said Power, who completed his fifth and final lap in 1 minute, 20.2447 seconds to edge Rahal (1.20.3238).
It was the Australian’s 23rd career pole, tying Johnny Rutherford for 11th on the career list. Power also took the first place in last week’s qualifier in California.
More important, it gave him an advantage heading into Sunday’s race on a tight, potentially dangerous two-mile street course.
“Securing the pole position is an advantage here because you don’t have to worry about trying to pass, and since it is a street circuit there can be a lot of yellows,” Power said.
That’s why he understood it was imperative to close with flourish Saturday.
“I knew I had one lap to do it,” he said. “I didn’t think I got it. That was definitely a tough one.”
Rahal will also begin in Row 1. Although it was his best start of the year, the American couldn’t help but be disappointed in the finish.
“I had a good one going,” he said. “I ran into the chicane … and I locked up the right front. I kind of got it through the chicane but it wasn’t pretty. Lost all our time there pretty well.”
Rahal was followed by Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Briscoe was particularly pleased after sustaining damage to his car in Friday’s practice run. Using advice from Team Penske mates Power and Helio Castroneves, Briscore rebounded smartly to finish third in qualifying for a second straight week.
“Today was all about getting the confidence back,” he said. “After practice yesterday, I tried to base a lot of my information off of Helio and Will since they had fast cars and were really happy with what they had.”
Franchitti — whose first-place lead over Power shrunk to 25 points — struggled from the outset.
“The first two I just didn’t think I got a clean lap. I didn’t put together a whole lap,” he said. “By the time we got out on the third one, I think we made the car a little bit better, put a half-decent lap together. Obviously, we’re not where we need to be.”
Much of the talk leading to the race has been about a challenging course with plenty of hairpin turns, bumpy terrain, bothersome railroad tracks and troubling chicanes. There is little margin for error and plenty of places to make them..
Franchitti, who will be seeking his career-high tying fifth victory of the year, plans to keep it simple Sunday. Asked what it takes to win, he replied, “Don’t make any mistakes and hopefully don’t get caught up in anybody else’s accident. Hopefully the strategy works out. As we know, there’s a million things that go into surviving one of these things, far less winning them.”