Will Power is so dominant on the streets of Baltimore, his competition on the IndyCar circuit is running out of ideas how to beat him to the finish line.
“I’m thinking I’m probably going to take him out and continue on,” rival Scott Dixon said with a grin Saturday after Power captured the pole in the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Power added a point to his circuit-leading total by winning the pole and is the overwhelming favorite to claim the checkered flag Sunday. The Australian is already halfway to duplicating his performance of a year ago in Charm City, when he seized the pole and cruised to victory the following day.
“I think we have good cars and I love street courses,” Power said.
If Power can leave Charm City with a 54-point lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series, he will clinch his first career points championship. He holds a 37-point advantage over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who’s in second place.
Power held the lead late in the season in each of the past two years but failed to hold on. He intends to run away from the pack this weekend and make the final race of the year in California irrelevant.
“I was determined to get the pole. I knew another point toward the championship definitely helps,” he said. “Starting at the front, that lowers my percentages of getting involved in an accident in the first lap. Very neat to focus ahead now. I got that out of the way, and let’s see what we can do (Sunday).”
Several drivers had trouble negotiating the chicane that was added to the 2.04-mile course late Friday night. Graham Rahal was launched into a wall during the preliminary run, which brought out a red flag to end the session with just over six minutes left. That prevented Hunter-Reay from getting back onto the track to mount an effort to join the “Fast Six” — the half-dozen drivers with the fastest qualifying times who return to race for the pole.
“We can manage it, but we really stepped on our own foot today,” Hunter-Reay said. “We went out the latest of anybody and gave ourselves absolutely no margin for error on a red flag happening.”
Mike Conway finished second in the race for the pole and Dixon took third, but Conway was knocked back to 12th after being penalized for an unapproved engine change.
“That’s a bit annoying, obviously,” Conway said. “It could have been a front-row start. But it is what it is. It’s just going to make our day tomorrow a bit more challenging.”
‘It’s been an expensive day for a lot of teams’
The challenge for Conway and everyone else is overtaking Power, who captured his fifth pole of the season and is looking for victory No. 4.
“I think Will does a terrific job, but we’ve proved the last two years he’s beatable,” said Dario Franchitti, won the points title from 2009-11.
Several of the drivers were complaining about the chicane, which left several cars damaged after a brush with the wall.
“It’s been an expensive day for a lot of teams. It’s a lottery how you land,” said Franchitti, who took fifth in qualifying. “It’s pretty daunting to put a lap together.”
Rahal blamed himself for his run-in with the wall.
“I was pushing really hard and just made a mistake,” he said. “I felt really good in that area but I just hit the curb, and the car completely launched into the air.”
Power, of course, had no trouble with the course. It’s as if he’s been driving around the Inner Harbor for years.
“This track is very physical. There are lots of turns and not many straights, now that they have added the chicane,” he said. “Starting from the pole, it’s a lot easier to control your own destiny. Over the last few weeks we’ve done we needed to do, and we want to continue. It’s going to be a good show for Baltimore fans.”