BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Will Power and Penske Racing are back in a familiar position at Barber Motorsports Park: starting in the pole position at a track where they dominated until last year.
Power, a two-time winner, came out on top in a Fast Six qualifying Saturday that featured five drivers from IndyCar powerhouse teams Penske, Andretti Autosport and Ganassi Racing.
I was thinking it was going to be very tough to beat the Andretti boys, they’ve been so fast around here, said Power, who won his third pole in five races at the track. But I was able to do one lap each time on my tires, so I had two shots at it. It was awfully close. Nothing between everyone.
But very happy to be on pole. It was definitely the aim. Puts you in a much better position to keep out of trouble on the start.
There was plenty of trouble at Long Beach two weeks ago, and Scott Dixon was the only Fast Six driver not caught up in it.
Most of the drivers have cleared the air, but Simon Pagenaud has said the tone might have been set for the season when he was spun from behind by Power.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s attempt to pass Josef Newgarden on a tight turn also collected seven drivers, including Andretti teammate James Hinchcliffe.
Power expects some clarification of what constitutes clean racing at the pre-race drivers meeting with race director Beaux Barfield.
What happened between Pagenaud and myself, I feel bad, the Australian driver said. He had every right to be really angry.
I think the payback system is not going to work very well for us with these cars and the tracks we go to. It will become dangerous. We’ll talk about it in the drivers meeting, come up with some compromise.
Mike Conway won the tension-filled race at Long Beach but will start in the 21st spot.
Hinchcliffe qualified second, as he did at Long Beach, while defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay starts third.
Juan Pablo Montoya starts eighth, his best qualifying spot since moving from NASCAR back to open-wheel racing this season.
NHRA: In Baytown, Texas, Texas driver Steve Torrence was the fastest Top Fuel qualifier in the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Torrence, from Kilgore, had a 3.786-second pass at 321.81 mph.
Del Worsham topped the Funny Car field, and Allen Johnson was the fastest in Pro Stock.
Worsham’s Friday run of 4.051 at 314.68 in his Toyota Camry held up Saturday. He has three career wins at the track – two in Funny Car and one in Top Fuel. Johnson’s Friday pass of 6.555 pass at 211.63 also held up.
NATIONWIDE: In Richmond, Va., Kevin Harvick pulled away on a restart with 47 laps to go and ended Chase Elliott’s two-race winning streak in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series early Saturday at Richmond International Raceway.
Harvick led 202 of the 250 laps in a race delayed nearly 3 1/2 hours at the start by rain Friday night. The victory was the 41st of his career in the series, and his record-extending seventh at 0.75-mile Richmond.
Elliott, the Georgia high-schooler and son of racing great Bill Elliott, was looking to win his third consecutive race and pad his points lead, but he managed to do just the latter when Harvick was too fast.
I think he just outdrove me a little bit, honestly, Elliott said. Some of it was me. I kind of let him get too far out in front of me.
The pair finished nearly seven seconds ahead of third-place finisher Kyle Busch.
He pushes us to be better by trying different things, Harvick said of Elliott, his JR Motorsports teammate.
He’s as good as they get and a lot of fun to be around.