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IndyCar Toronto

Power: Improving qualifying is key to staying in title hunt

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power has cited upping his qualifying performance as key to taking the IndyCar championship battle down to the wire.

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet

Although he is renowned for qualifying pace and has 64 pole positions to his name, all nine rounds of the 2022 championship have seen a different polesitter, emphasizing how close the battle is for supremacy. In such circumstances, any slip-up is exaggerated, and four times Power has found himself outside the Top 12.

Once this was due to getting held up on his fastest lap, once – two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio – it was a result of getting his fastest two laps docked as penalty for inadvertently holding up Helio Castroneves on a flying lap, and twice it was for a puzzling lack of speed at the crucial moment.

Despite these issues, Power has usually been able to recover on race day – for instance, driving from 19th to fourth at Barber Motorsports Park, winning Detroit from 16th on the grid and finishing third at Mid-Ohio from stone last on the opening lap. Consequently, he lies second in the championship, 20 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.

Asked what he felt he needed to do to become still stronger, Power admitted: “For me personally, it’s to qualify better.

“It's not always been about pace. Last race it was just strategy and the lack of communication that got us. I actually feel like we would have definitely made it through to the Fast Six and potentially had a pole.

“Road America being P2 in practice, then not converting that in qualifying – that's the sort of thing we've got to be on top of.

“I've just had a messy year of qualifying as far as being in the wrong place on track or not getting a big enough gap to the car in front, or simply not performing, not being fast enough. I've had all those situations.

“That's the area I need to improve on for the next half of this season. I think that will put me in a really good position, if I do.”

Ahead of IndyCar’s first race in Toronto since 2019, Power said he was confident that drivers will be able to pass around the 1.786-mile course, whatever the qualifying order, but that any lack of overtaking would be a corollary of the field being so close in pace, rather than any fault of the track.

“There are places to pass… What's happened is the field is so tough now, everyone is about the same speed in the race,” said the three-time Toronto winner. “That's what makes it hard to pass. It's not necessarily the track.

“I think Firestone has done a good job of making a big difference between blacks [harder primary tires] and reds [softer alternate-compound]. There's another way that you can just switch up strategy and just be on a different tire than everyone else, different to the conventional strategies.

“Based on the three races I've had this year where I've come from way back, you would stress less about qualifying badly, just knowing if you keep your head you can definitely make hay.

“The points situation also changes the way you race a bit. You're not in this 'I have nothing to lose' sort of mentality, so you do race a little differently because of that, as well.”

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