Another stroke of bad luck for Ryan Hunter-Reay benefitted IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader Will Power on Saturday at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Hunter-Reay was unable to advance out of the first round of qualifying after Graham Rahal ended the session with a crash that saw him bounce off the newly installed front-stretch chicane and hit the wall. At the time, Hunter-Reay was seventh in his group and needed to jump one more position to advance on.
Instead, Hunter-Reay had to settle for a 13th place starting position and then watch as Power, the man he's chasing for the title, earned his fifth pole of the season. That pushed Power's edge over Hunter-Reay to 37 points going into tomorrow's 75-lap event (2:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network); Power needs a 54-point lead coming out of Baltimore to clinch the championship before the season finale on Sept. 15 at Fontana, California.
"On a course like this, it is important to start up front and additionally, we gained one more point toward the championship," said Power, who won from the pole at Baltimore last season. "Starting from the pole, it is a lot easier to control your own destiny. Tomorrow, we'll focus on the job at hand and think about this race and doing the best we can - the best I can and the best that the team can.
"Over the last few weeks, we've done what we needed to do and we want to continue."
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay has fallen victim to cruel twists of fate in the last two races. At Mid-Ohio, his engine lost power and eventually let go. Then last weekend at Sonoma, what would have been a critical podium finish was undone when Alex Tagliani spun him out with 11 laps to go.
On Saturday, Hunter-Reay's latest problem simply came down to a matter of timing.
"We can manage it, but we really stepped on our own foot today," the American said. "That's what you get for going out the latest. We went out latest out of anybody and gave ourselves absolutely no margin for error on a red flag happening.
"It's part of the qualifying risk on street courses...It's part of the beast. You wait until the last possible moment to get the most rubber down on the track and obviously get the best lap time out of the car, and we got bit by that. But this is the first time we'll have two sets of new [alternate tires] in a long time, so maybe that will be to our advantage."
Mike Conway qualified on the outside of Power in Row 1 despite having his own wreck near the chicane at the end of the Firestone Fast Six. But a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change will force the Brit to start in 12th tomorrow.
That will move Scott Dixon into P2 at the drop of the green flag tomorrow. Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti will move into Row 2.
Quotes were taken from INDYCAR trackside reports.