Green flag: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

Green flag: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

Now tied with Mario Andretti for the most poles in NTT INDYCAR SERIES history with 67, Will Power is ready to focus on what’s next in his career, starting with tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 , presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway.

His purpose is clear.

“I have to tie Michael (Andretti) to wins,” he said. “That’s one win away.”

The second-generation Andretti racer scored 42 wins in his illustrious career, finishing fourth on the sport’s all-time list. Power has 41 and he will be one of the favorites to win tonight. Another driver to beat is Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who has won the past two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races on this 1.25 mile oval track.

Among the points Power does not expect to achieve are the four Indianapolis 500 wins presented by Gainbridge that Helio Castroneves achieved in 2021.

“I can almost guarantee this won’t happen until I’m done,” said Power, who won the “500” in 2018. “That’s a pretty good run if you could do that.”

First things first, and that’s tonight’s race. Here are some things to keep an eye out for and remember: The start time is shifting to 6:01 p.m. ET (USA, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network) due to predicted rain in the St. Louis area later tonight:

A battle at the front

Seven drivers are legitimately in contention for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season championship, and they won’t be hard to find tonight when the green flag is flying. They will all be in front.

You read that right. The seven drivers qualified in the top seven positions.

“Isn’t that crazy how that turned out?” said Nieuwgarden. “It’s going to be very hit and miss with everyone. We’re all together. I don’t think that’s unusual per se; those are the people who normally fight together up front during most of these races.

“It’s a long race. We all have to get through that first lap, that first corner and then try to settle in and see what we’ve got. ”

This is the closest to the top seven drivers who have been so deep in a season in the standings in the past 20 years. Power leads six-time series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) by six points – seven when considering the NTT P1 Award – with Marcus Ericsson, the winner of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in the No. 8 Bryant Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing), 12 points behind in third place.

Newgarden, a two-time title winner, is fourth in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, 22 points behind Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Reigning series champion Alex Palou is fourth in the No. Chip Ganassi Racing’s 10 American Legion Honda, minus 33 points in fifth.

Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet) and Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) are sixth and seventh, respectively, with 58 and 59 points ahead.

Three more races to go to award the Astor Challenge Cup. The pressure is on.

Power not satisfied

It might be easy to think Power is on a cruise now that he’s strapped on Andretti, someone who holds the record he’s been looking for for years. But that is not the case.

Despite all that Power has achieved in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he has only won one series championship – in 2014 – and has escaped at least three others. Now he has a chance to finish on top.

“No, I don’t feel any relief because I’m so focused on the race and the championship,” said Power. “I can think about it later (tie Andretti) and feel good about it.

“Right now it’s so important to have a good car in the race and to race well. Yes, have a good day.”

Power won at this track in 2018. Newgarden has won three of the last six races here (2017, Race 2 of 2020 and 2021). Castroneves (2003), Takuma Sato (2017) and Dixon (Race 1 of 2020) are the other former WWTR race winners in this field.

Excellent Qualifying Runs

Power wasn’t the only driver happy to start that far up front. Several others were as well.

Ericsson and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco (No.29 PowerTap Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) took their best starting position of their career in second and ninth respectively. Ericsson has never started on the front row of a race in this series.

“I knew the ovals were something I was really strong at this year, so I was really looking forward to this,” he said.

Ericsson had never raced an oval until arriving in the US in 2019, but he said WWTR was the first of those tracks where he got his “head around”.

DeFrancesco’s previous best starting position was 15th in Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway last month.

Chip Ganassi Racing has three drivers in the top six – Ericsson second, Palou fifth, Dixon sixth – while the organizers of 2013 WWTR winner Dale Coyne have Sato eighth in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR with rookie David Malukas 13th in the No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD. Malukas won both WWTR races in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series last year and had the second fastest lap in Friday’s final practice session.

All four of Michael Andretti’s cars together qualified ninth (Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 NAPA AUTO PARTS/DHL Honda), 10th (DeFrancesco), 11th (Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) and 12th (Colton Herta in the Gainbridge Honda with No. 26), although Grosjean will start nine positions deeper due to a penalty for an unapproved engine change. That will move his teammates up one position each.

Team Penske also flexed its usual muscles on this track as the three drivers qualified in the top four (Power pole, Newgarden third, McLaughlin fourth).

USA Network takes to the air for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at 6 p.m. ET, with the green flag for the 260-lap race at 6:01 p.m.

Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network will also be in action.

The 75-lap Indy Lights at the World Wide Technology Raceway race is scheduled for 4:15 PM on Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR radio network.

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