Conor Daly

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, and that starts with tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway.

His goal is straightforward.

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

The second-generation Andretti racer scored 42 wins his illustrious career, good for fourth place 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 at this 1.25-mile oval track.

One mark that Power doesn’t expect to attain is the four Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge victories that Helio Castroneves reached in 2021.

“I can almost guarantee that is not going to happen before 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 watch, and remember: The start time is moving up to 6:01 p.m. ET (USA, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network) due to forecasted rain in the St. Louis area later tonight:

A Battle at the Front

There are seven drivers legitimately in contention to win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season championship, and they won’t be difficult to find tonight when the green flag waves. They’ll all be up front.

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

“Isn’t that crazy how that worked out?” Newgarden said. “It is going to be very dicey with everybody. We’re all clumped together. I don’t think that’s necessarily unusual; that’s the people that are normally fighting together at the front of most of these races.

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

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

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. 10 American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing, 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, 58 and 59 points out of the lead.

Three races to go to award the Astor Challenge Cup. The pressure’s on.

Power Not Satisfied

It might be easy to think Power is on cruise now that he has tied Andretti, someone who has held the record he has been eyeing for several years. But that’s not the case.

For all that Power has accomplished in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he has only one series championship – in 2014 – and at least three others got away. Now, he has a chance to finish on top.

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

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

Power won at this track in 2018. Newgarden has won three of the past 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 be starting so far up front. Several others were, too.

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

“I knew that the ovals this year have been something that I’ve been really strong on, so I was really looking forward to this one,” he said.

Ericsson had never raced on an oval until he arrived in the U.S. in 2019, but he said WWTR was the first of those tracks that he got his “head around.”

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

Chip Ganassi Racing has three drivers in the top six – Ericsson second, Palou fifth, Dixon sixth – while Dale Coyne’s organization has Sato, the 2013 WWTR winner, in 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 last year in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series and had the second-fastest lap during Friday’s final practice session.

All four of Michael Andretti’s cars qualified together in 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 No. 26 Gainbridge Honda), 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 muscle at this track, as its three drivers qualified in the top four (Power pole, Newgarden third, McLaughlin fourth).

USA Network will come on 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 also will have the action.

The 75-lap Indy Lights at World Wide Technology Raceway race is set for 4:15 p.m. on Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR Radio Network.