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At Long Beach, Will Power believes Team Penske driver will win Indianapolis 500 pole

LONG BEACH, California – The 108th Indianapolis 500 is a little over one month away, and the NTT IndyCar Series competitors are at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

But 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power issued a bit of a “guarantee.”

The Team Penske driver believes a Penske driver will win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

Power made this prediction after he finished just 0.0039-of-a-second behind Felix Rosenqvist in the Firestone Fast Six for the Sunday’s 49thAcura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Rosenqvist scored the sixth IndyCar pole of his career with a fast time of 1:06.0172 around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course for a speed of 107.393 miles per hour in the No. 60 SiriusXM/AutoNation Honda.

Power was second in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet for Team Penske at 1:06.0211 for a speed of 107.311 mph.

“Yeah, that’s the story of my life lately,” Power said to his crew after failing to extend his IndyCar Series record for poles to 71. “That's been the story of the last two years.

“One of the data engineers said if we added up all the time you missed getting in the Fast Six, it would be 2/10ths. At St. Pete I missed the Fast Six by 21 thousandths. What was this one?”

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Acura%20Grand%20Prix%20of%20Long%20Beach%20-%20Saturday_%20April%2020_%202024_Ref%20Image%20Without%20Watermark_m100353.jpg

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When told of the 0.0039-of-second margin, Power quipped, “We had a bunch of poles by 21 thousandths of a second. It ebbs and flows. That's my experience over time.”

Power made his near guarantee in an off-handed reference to the “100 Days to Indy” docuseries that begins to air on The CW on Friday night, April 26.

“I read the script,” Power joked. “It says that I'll be on pole, so there we go.”

When asked if NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson wasn’t the driver in a fictious “script” Power continued his tale of wishful thinking.

“They had him in there as pole, but I got in there and politicked and got it changed,” Power said. “He's NASCAR, sorry.

“I'm changing the script.

“I think my pole will be like, 236.5 (miles per hour) will be my quickest lap. Averaging in the 235s.

“Yeah, that's quick.”

Of course, there is no script, but the point is, Power has immense confidence that Team Penske has improved the speed and performance of its race cars prior to heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a few weeks to begin the month of May with Indy 500 practice on May 14.

Qualifications begin on Saturday, May 18, with the Fast 12 run for the pole that Sunday.

“I feel like we have a great shot,” Power said.

When asked, why, Power responded, “Because we've worked so hard. I don't think we've left anything on the table. I've said that for the last five years. I haven't said we'd be on pole. I've said we have a good shot.

“This year I really feel like we've put everything together.

“We'll see. I feel like one of our cars have a great shot at pole, if not all on the front row. I hope so.

“I hope so.”

Indy 500
Indy 500

The only time in Indianapolis 500 history the same team swept the front row for the race was in 1988 when Team Penske’s Rick Mears won the pole and went on to win the race. Teammates Danny Sullivan were in the middle of Row 1 and Al Unser started third and finished third.

Team Penske has a record 18 Indianapolis 500 poles, but a Team Penske driver has not started on the pole at Indianapolis since Simon Pagenaud in 2019. He went on to win the race.

That last pole winner before that from Team Penske was Ryan Briscoe in 2012.

Before the Indianapolis 500, however, is the second-biggest race of the season in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Rosenqvist will lead the field to the green flag, but Power will try to beat him heading into Turn 1.

IndyCar has changed the procedure to start the race. Based on driver feedback in Friday’s competition meeting, IndyCar issued an update Saturday morning.

“In line with this season’s restart procedure, once the green condition has been declared, cars will not be permitted to pass until crossing the restart line, which at Long Beach also is the alternate start/finish line,” the IndyCar statement said.

In the final race of the 2022 season, Power won the 68th pole of his IndyCar career to break a tie with the great Mario Andretti. By sweeping both poles in the Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway, Power extended that record to 70.

Saturday at Long Beach, in the morning practice session, Power had issues in Turn 8, brushing the wall twice. But he was able to overcome those incidents with a car capable of winning the pole just a few hours later.

Because of Power’s status as the greatest pole winner in IndyCar history, Rosenqvist admitted the pride he felt beating him Saturday for the No. 1 starting position on the streets of Long Beach.

“He's the guy I grew up watching YouTube videos of,” Rosenqvist admitted. "It was Australia, Surfers Paradise. My media guy and I spent hours watching this guy (Power).

“It's pretty cool to be up here and beat him a couple of thousandths.

“He's the man.

“I have watched a lot of onboard videos of Will Power on qualifying laps. I am fascinated seeing what different guys can do.

“Will is definitely one of the guys that can string a lap together.”

“That’s right,” Power responded.

What remains to be seen is if Power’s near guarantee for a Team Penske driver to win the pole for the Indy 500 in May comes true.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500