Wednesday, March 22, 2023

IndyCar Championship Contenders Dealing With Mixed Bag of Results in Toronto Qualifying

Will Power practicing at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto
Will Power practicing at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto. Photo courtesy Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment.

TORONTO — While one driver in the IndyCar Series title race can be very satisfied with a third place result in qualifying, another such driver was heard loudly screaming an expletive in his helmet after an untimely red flag in qualifying kept them mired in 16th place.

Such was the respective reality for Josef Newgarden (third in points) and Will Power (second in points) who are trying to chase Marcus Ericsson who will line up ninth in the 25-car field.

Newgarden’s path to third place was not easy, however. The two-time IndyCar series champion had a low oil pressure warning light come on during the Saturday morning practice session. Newgarden’s team had to rapidly change out the engine on the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, which was done in time for Newgarden to qualify in the second group of the first round of qualifying.

Newgarden was the third fastest driver in that group and the second fastest driver in the second round of qualifying to move on to the Firestone Fast Six, where he qualified third fastest.

The two-time Toronto winner (2015 and 2017) pointed to one mistake that prevented him from being on pole position at Toronto for the second time.

“I felt on that fast six lap that we were on a good one, a really good one,” Newgarden said. “And then I ended up messing up in Turn 6. I overcooked the entry, tried to recover all of it on the exit and ended up touching the wall and then it was kind of unraveled at that point. But I think if I nail the lap from Turn 6 onwards, I think we’re in the pole conversation, there. We were tracking for about a 59.2, 59.1 maybe, so I felt really good about it.”

While the Tennessee native was in an upbeat mood, his Team Penske teammate Power was heard yelling an expletive very loudly on the qualifying broadcast while his helmet was still on.

Power was also in the second group in round one of qualifying but was eighth fastest in the group when a late red flag for Alex Palou’s stopped car brought everyone to pit lane.

Everyone that wanted to set one more timed lap had 30 seconds to leave pit lane from the session resuming. While setting their final fast laps, Kyle Kirkwood had a bit of wall contact exiting Turn 6. The left rear suspension had a part failure and the defending Indy Lights champion spun in Turn 8, hitting the tire barrier and causing another red flag while Power was trying to advance to round two.

“Oh my God!”

Power ended up qualifying in 16th place while Palou (fourth in points) ended up 22nd out of 25 cars. After getting to pit road, Power screamed in his helmet.

“I had a really fast car again and it’s crazy, that’s three races in a row where we’ve been like P2 in practice before qualifying and then like 19th or between 15th and 19th or 20th,” Power said. “Frustrating, man. Frustrating. Definitely had the car, even was on a lap, got to Turn 6 and was up four tenths, which would’ve gotten us through but that’s also a result of bad qualifying is that you’re at the back, so you’re behind everyone so if someone creates a red, you’re not across the line.

“Yeah, just keeps adding up. So we’ll see, obviously we’ve had some great races from the back, just got to do it again, unfortunately.”

Power has had three races this season where he has started 16th or worse and finished in the top four positions. At Barber Motorsports Park, Power started 19th and finished fourth and at Detroit Power won from 16th on the grid. At Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Power started 21st, fell back to last on the first lap but climbed to third place.

The Honda Indy Toronto will air live exclusively on Peacock at 3:00 p.m. ET with the race starting 30 minutes later.

Follow @CDeHarde on Twitter.

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