ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – Relaxing is a powerful thing. Sometimes, just having a fresh mind can really set the tone for the rest of a day. For Will Power, a power nap just before qualifying for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) was the key to him moving to just 12 poles shy of tying Mario Andretti for the most in NTT IndyCar Series history.
See, Power said the first three practice sessions weren’t up to par for the course. His No. 12 Chevrolet for Team Penske is typically found near the top of the speed charts. Instead, he 10th in both practice sessions on Friday and fifth in the morning session on Saturday. It took a lot of hard work to improve like they did. Then, to get his car ready to make it to the Fast Six, well it took more work.
It was exhausting for him.
“I think it was the nap I had before,” Power said after earning the top starting spot for Sunday’s 110 Lap race. “I actually had a really good nap. It actually felt sweet, kind of fresh. It was just a — it’s been a tough weekend. We were 10th in practice and have just slowly worked on the car and got it better and better and better, and even in qualifying we’re making some kind of big changes. By the time we got to the Fast Six, had a reasonable car, good car, obviously, and better on used tires. New tires it was okay. And very good on blacks. But yeah, I was over the moon.
“I really didn’t think I’d get pole. I knew Josef (Newgarden) had really good tires, and he had a similar car to me. So yeah, we’re just happy for the team. We were on the back foot starting this weekend.
“I wasn’t even stressing, I just fell asleep. It was good. My little guy was having a sleep at the same time, so the bus was quiet.”
The pole was also Power’s eighth in 12 tries on the 1.8-mile street circuit. Despite that accomplishment, Power was still shocked to earn the top starting spot.
Will Power in his No. 12 Chevrolet for Team Penske this weekend in St. Pete – INDYCAR Media Site
“I was, yeah,” said Power on if he was actually shocked or not. “It’s not easy in this series. Any time you get pole, you’re pretty happy. Obviously I like the track, but everyone is on top of each other about getting it right for the session. It’s come down to literally understanding the condition and really thinking on the fly with what you need to do with the car because driving-wise everyone is capable of pumping out a pole lap. It’s just can you get the car in that window quickly through those first through rounds to understand the condition of the track.”
Now, Power will hope his Team Penske organization has their street course program figured out. I wrote about that last month on how that’s the main thing they need to improve upon for 2019. They’ve talked a bunch about that so far this weekend too. All three drivers have said just how much that they put into the offseason on how the street course races were their top priority.
Penske has won just once over the last 10 street course races. They never were a factor in this race last year.
Now, they’ll start 1-2 on Sunday and hope for added improvement in race conditions.