When it comes to Mid-Ohio qualifying, rely on Power

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Will Power enjoys a view from the front at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The Team Penske driver earned a front-row starting position in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio for the sixth straight year by capturing the Verizon P1 Award in Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying today. Power will lead the 21-car field to the green flag in Sunday’s 90-lap race on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course.

HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO: Qualifying results

Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power’s best lap of 1 minute, 4.1720 seconds (126.672 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six was enough to earn his third pole position at Mid-Ohio, his fifth pole this season and the 49th of his lofty Indy car career – tying the 2014 series champion with Bobby Unser for fourth on the all-time list.

“The Verizon car was really hooked up,” Power said. “Before qualifying, we made a few changes and kind of got it in the window. Really happy for all the guys, especially here. You’ve got to start at the front here; it’s really, really difficult to pass, so (winning pole is) giving us the best chance to win tomorrow.”

Power previously won the pole at Mid-Ohio in 2010 and ’12. He had qualified second for four straight years until today, so he knows his way around the challenging, undulating road course in north-central Ohio. Clearly, he knows the quick way around and when to push.

“It's just a matter of getting it all together and understanding what you've learned over that weekend and putting it all together during the qualifying,” Power said. “Especially when it counts, the (Firestone) Fast Six, not use too much energy all weekend (and) when you’ve got to use it, use it. That's what I do.”

Power, who has yet to convert the prime starting spots into a win at Mid-Ohio, was among three Team Penske drivers to advance to the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three knockout qualifying rounds. Joining the 36-year-old Australian on the front row in Sunday’s 90-lap race on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn permanent road course will be teammate Josef Newgarden, who qualified second in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet (1:04.3067, 126.407 mph).

Ryan Hunter-Reay“I think we did a good job today,” Newgarden said. “The boys on the (No.) 2 car gave me everything I needed with a fast car. It’s been pretty good all weekend.

“It’s always tough to get pipped by your teammate by just a little bit, but ultimately it’s a good day for us on Team Penske. We have two cars up there on the front row.”

Takuma Sato, winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 in May, qualified third in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:04.6792, 125.679 mph). Graham Rahal, who was fastest in his group in each of the first two qualifying segments, finished fourth in the Firestone Fast Six with a lap of 1:04.7959 (125.452 mph) in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver won at his home Mid-Ohio track in 2015.

“A good qualifying session for us,” said Rahal, the Ohio native. “It was a shame that in (the Firestone Fast Six), I frankly just messed up. I didn't have Power's speed, but I kind of threw it away early in the lap and that was that. Disappointed, at the same time we showed we’ve got the pace. Hopefully tomorrow we can work from fourth.”

Helio Castroneves, a two-time Mid-Ohio winner (2000, 2001), qualified fifth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:04.8485, 125.351 mph). Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon extended his streak of reaching all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions this season and qualified sixth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda (1:05.1927, 124.689 mph). Points leader Dixon takes a three-point edge over Castroneves into the race.

Defending Mid-Ohio race winner and 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by less than five-hundredths of a second and will start seventh in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I’m surprised that we didn’t get in (the Firestone Fast Six) because it felt like a good lap and I put everything I had in it,” Pagenaud said.

Conor Daly advanced past the first segment of knockout qualifying for the first time this season and will start 11th in the No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Alongside Daly in Row 6 will be Esteban Gutierrez, whose 12th-place showing in the No. 18 UNIFIN Honda is his best qualifying effort in six races with Dale Coyne Racing.

Tony Kanaan originally advanced from Segment 1, Group 1 but was penalized for causing a local yellow that impeded other drivers’ laps. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver spun sideways in Turn 2 on his final lap, forcing other drivers to slow as he corrected the car to continue on track. The automatic penalty levied by INDYCAR is loss of the driver’s fastest lap to that point, which prevented Kanaan from advancing.

A final 30-minute warmup practice is set for 11:15 a.m. ET Sunday and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live coverage of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, the 13th of 17 races on the 2017 schedule, starts at 3 p.m. on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. An encore presentation of the race airs at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

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