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‘I’m having more fun because I’m going faster’ – Power

Will Power credited his improved demeanor to rediscovering his qualifying mojo, after qualifying on the front row for tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Although he was frustrated to fall just 0.0039s of Felix Rosenqvist’s time in the Meyer Shank Racing-Honda, the Team Penske driver was also elated to not only reach his first Firestone Fast Six since he won the championship in 2022 — the same year he broke Mario Andretti’s all-time pole-winning record.

Asked about his sunny demeanor in the post-qualifying press conference, he stated: “I’m having more fun because I’m going faster, honestly. I’ve been quick all year, even in testing. Everywhere I have been quick. St. Pete qualifying I didn’t put it together. Went the wrong way on the setup. I have been quick.

“Super-stoked to be in the top six. I’ve worked pretty hard in the off-season. I’ve continually worked hard my whole career. I’m still working extremely hard on all my driving details, constantly improving and evolving. It’s never ending for me. Enjoying it. Enjoying it. I love the competition. It’s tough extracting the most out of yourself.

“You get to compete with different eras of guys. The young group will be around for another 20 years. Competing with the middle group, which is sort of [Josef] Newgarden, [Alexander] Rossi. And then you have [Scott] Dixon and myself [in our 40s].”

The three Penskes of Power, Newgarden — who took pole and victory in Round 1 at St. Petersburg and qualified third for tomorrow’s race — and Scott McLaughlin who qualified 11th were the sole Chevrolet representatives in the top 12, yet Power credited Chevy as well as the team with Penske’s more convincing qualifying form this year compared with last.

“It’s a couple of things,” he said. “I think the engine’s better. I think Chevy did some really good work in the off-season. As a team, we’ve worked hard on street course setups and road course. Overall actually we were kind of disappointed with the season, even though the team won the 500 [with Newgarden]. We’re just stronger overall. I’ve personally worked hard. I’m sure the other two boys, they’re working hard as well. I think it’s all clicking well.”

Power, who won the GP of Long Beach in 2008 and 2012, said he couldn’t think of any areas of the 1.968-mile course where he could have found the missing four thousandths of a second that would have put him ahead of Rosenqvist.

‘There was not much left on the table. Like really, I know, every sector… The only thing I could say is a bit into [Turn] 10 and the hairpin [Turn 11]. But you’re not going to see a chunk anywhere. It’s going to be hundredths. That just shows how good of a lap Felix did and how tight it is in this series.”

After twice thumping his left-rear wheel against the wall at Turn 8 — the corner leading onto the back straight — in this morning’s practice session, Power said he built up to speed through that corner in qualifying.

“[I did] pretty much my best on my last lap. Slowly got better and better and better and better. The last lap was the best. [This morning] all I was doing was damaging the toe link. I was so sideways, it bent the toe link. Done it three times [once on Friday]. It just lights up the tires out of there. It’s much nicer. You used to have a big hump there. Now it’s really nice and smooth. A really cool corner…

“It just made it so you can get on the throttle earlier, so you have more power when you’re getting out near the wall. Yeah, I keep testing it. You should lift a little. You’ll crash otherwise…”

Regarding the large yaw angles the Indy cars have been ascribing on the exit of certain turns, Power said it was due to “the lighter rear we have now. You can actually get away with being a little sideways and not lose time. It’s a more nimble car. You can hustle it.”

Power also threw out the comment that he believes that a Team Penske car can claim pole for this year’s 108th running of the Indianapolis 500. Qualifying at the Brickyard has been a struggle for Penske over the last four years, with Power even starting on the back row in 2021. Although Newgarden won last year, he had to climb from 17th on the grid.

Power, who doesn’t count P1 at the Indy 500 among his 70 Indy car poles, said he reckoned a Penske could win it “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! But 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.”

Story originally appeared on Racer