“Easier said than done,” acknowledged Wilson, who posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 0.2710 seconds (104.827 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street circuit at Exhibition Place to win the PEAK Performance Pole Award.
It was the second pole earned for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – the first by Sarah Fisher in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway.
Team Penske’s Will Power will join Wilson, who has a pair of runner-up finishes this season on street courses, on the front row. Power had a best lap of 1:00.4563 in the Firestone Fast Six, but his team’s streak of eight consecutive pole starts came to an end (Power had five in that span).
Helio Castroneves (1:00.8159) in the No. 3 Team Penske car and Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport (1:00.8397), will share Row 2. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti (1:00.9477) and Scott Dixon (1:00.9541) will be on Row 3. Dixon extended his series record to 42 consecutive top-five starts.
All but Wilson are race winners this season. He obviously intends to become the eighth different winner.
“We’ve had a couple of tough races so to come back and get the pole here is just fantastic,” said Wilson, who saved a set of Firestone Firehawk alternate tires in setting the track record. “Everyone at Dreyer & Reinbold has worked so hard. I’m very pleased for Z-Line Designs. We’ll keep pushing for the race. It’s easy in this stage to sit back and relax, but we have a lot of work to do. It’s great that this is the team’s second career pole and I want to get their second career win. That’s the big picture we’re looking at but this is a great moment.
“After the difficulties at Watkins Glen (lost four spots to finish 10th) and Iowa (dropped 13 positions to finish 24th), it’s been tough. We’ve been working so hard, trying to stay focus and stay on track and not go off on a tangent.”
Power, a three-time race winner this season who has advanced to the Firestone Fast Six in each of the 10 races he’s competed for Team Penske, was less than two-tenths of a second off Wilson’s best lap.
“We definitely got the car better for qualifying today, but Justin was very quick and tough to beat,” he said. “I am not sure I could have beaten him this time. I know I made a mistake at the end of my lap, but that was a tough qualifying session and I am exhausted. I feel good about tomorrow; I am not sure what will happen with the weather. Rain always stirs things up, but we will take it as it comes.”
That’s just another potential factor team’s will face. The top 11 are separated by one second on the tricky, slippery and bumpy course that has concrete barriers on both sides of the drivers.
“It was exciting; we didn't know if the rain was coming or not,” Castroneves said. “So we decided to keep going as fast as we could. We certainly had the car to get up there, but we just wanted to play it safe and to be in the top six. But in the top three is certainly a good position to win a race from.”
His other teammate, Ryan Briscoe, will be on Row 4 with Tony Kanaan in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Nestle Pure Life entry for Andretti Autosport. Montreal’s Alex Tagliani in the No. 77 Bower & Wilkins/Hot Wheels car for FAZZT Race Team and Marco Andretti, driving the No. 26 Venom Energy car for Andretti Autosport will start on Row 5.
Raphael Matos in the No. 2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing car, coming off a fourth place at Watkins Glen International, will start 11th and Danica Patrick posted her highest road/street course starting position (12th) since Infineon Raceway (11th) last August. Paul Tracy of Toronto will start 24th in the No. 15 Make-A-Wish KV Racing Technology car.“I was pleased with our qualifying run today,” Patrick said. “It was great to advance out of our group, which had a lot of good cars in it. Today was a good step in the right direction. I’m happy with the GoDaddy car and hopefully we can have a decent day tomorrow.”