Power wins Kentucky pole

BY foxsports • October 1, 2011

Will Power cites two reasons why he lost the IndyCar championship to Dario Franchitti last year — a lack of experience on ovals and in dealing with the pressures of a title race.

He's got that fixed now.

Power won the pole for Sunday's race at Kentucky Speedway, posting a lap at 219.283 mph to set a two-lap track qualifying record. He beat Graham Rahal's lap of 218.348, and James Hinchcliffe qualified third at 218.186.

The qualifying effort Saturday earned Power a valuable point in the championship race on a day when Franchitti and Scott Dixon struggled in qualifying.

''If the championship comes down to one point, then this will prove to be very beneficial,'' Power said. ''I think this puts you in a good position to run well all day, not get stuck in the back of the pack. If you have a good car, which I'm sure the Ganassi guys have, they'll work their way up all day and be right there at the end.''

Franchitti, who trails Power by 12 points with two races left to decide the title, had to change his engine Saturday and qualified 11th. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dixon was seventh.

''Pretty upset with the qualifying. That's not what we need to be doing,'' Franchitti said. ''We know we can rebound. I think we have a good race car. It's good in traffic. After a number of laps, it's very consistent.''

Dixon, who trails Power by 60 points, said finding speed has been an issue for his car.

''I think that's been the most difficult part,'' he said. ''Obviously the test here, the car balance-wise and feel of it feels pretty good, but straight-out speed by itself is maybe not the best. Where we qualified is not where we want to be, but we'll do our best to have a comeback and try to get back to the front of the field.

''Need to try to get around Will so he doesn't get the most laps led.''

Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon qualified 28th in the 29-car field in his warm-up for his bid to win $5 million in the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas. Wheldon replaced Alex Tagliani in the Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry earlier this week to get some track time in before the GoDaddy Challenge at Las Vegas. Should Wheldon, who has 14 career victories on ovals, win at Vegas he and his team will split the $5 million prize with a fan yet to be chosen.

It's a sideshow, though, to the three-driver championship race.

Power presently has the advantage, and his pole Saturday tied the IndyCar single-season record of eight.

It was also the 24th of his career- but it's only the second pole he's won on an oval. The first was at Iowa in 2010.

''We try to get the best car combination that we have, find the best chassis, the lightest chassis, all those little details that matter,'' the Penske Racing driver said. ''We just try to do everything to win the championship. We've lost the championship in '09 and '10, two years in a row to Ganassi. I think the whole team as a group are very determined to not let that happen again.

''We're doing everything we can. I'm doing everything I can. We really want to get a championship.''

With that comes a laid-back approach to dealing with the pressures of a championship race. Franchitti is a three-time champion, Dixon has two titles, and the two have combined to win the last four championships.

''No pressure, I finished second last year and it was very disappointing to me but I definitely learned from it,'' Power said. ''I understand how you need to be mentally throughout the season, that's what I've applied this year. Good focus, focus on what I need to be focused on.''

But racing on ovals has also helped Power in comfort and experience.

''There's two things that were bad for me, oval experience, a lack of that and maybe not being in a championship situation before, those two things hurt me the most,'' Power said. ''Now, the mileage on ovals, that's the one thing that's really helped me. I feel more comfortable now, I've been here three times now and I just feel much better.''

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