Will Power wins IndyCar pole at Infineon
Power's Penske teammate Helio Castroneves was fastest most of the session but like the rest of the year, Power showed why he is the fastest driver in the Penske stable by pulling a fast lap out of the hat when it counted.
Ganassi's Dario Franchitti will start third. Alex Tagliani, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-6.
Firestone Racing brought some of the softest tires in its road/street course lineup as the primary and alternate specifications for Infineon Raceway. In fact, the alternate tire on which Will Power set his fastest lap, is the softest road course tire Firestone Racing produces. As a result the softer red tires were significantly faster in qualifying than the harder black tires. That has not always been the case this year. The teams quickly figured this out during qualifying and switched to the reds exclusively for most of the qualifying session.
Power expressed his thanks to the Penske Team for sticking by him after his accident here last year that resulted in a broken back.
"I have to thank Roger and Tim Cindric for sticking by me," said Power. "They could have easily just dropped me after the accident because sometimes a driver does not come back as good after a bad accident. But the first thing Roger said to me in the hospital was to not worry about 2010, we'll figure something out and definitely run you in at least some races. That was a big comfort to me."
Power barely made it into the Fast Six final round. With a minute left in Round 2 of qualifying, Power was outside the top-6 by four-tenths of a second to Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. So he ducked into the pits for a sticker set of Firestone alternate tires and recorded a lap of 1:16.8072 to bump his way into the Firestone Fast Six.
Power, who is now 41 points ahead of Dario Franchitti with four oval track races remaining, needs every point he can get on the road courses because the Ganassi Team that Franchitti drives for is potent this year on the ovals.
"Us not getting through that second round would have been a disaster," said Power, who has participated in all nine Firestone Fast Six sessions this season. "I knew it was going to be very close for pole here. Iâ€™m really stoked to get the Verizon team a record eight poles this season.
"It is important that we start up front here. This is the toughest series I have ever raced in. It is just so tight now. You canâ€™t leave anything on the table."
Round 1 Group 1 Top-6
Round 1 Group 2 Top-6
Round 2 Top-6
Round 3 Firestone Fast 6
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "I wasn't sure I was going to pull it off in the second round of qualifying. I was two-tenths off from the Fast Six. I knew it was going to be very close for pole here. I'm really stoked to get the Verizon team a record eight poles this season. It is important that we start up front here. This is the toughest series I have ever raced in. It is just so tight now. You can't leave anything on the table."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified second): "It was very consistent. The Team Penske car was very good. We made some incredible changes and made great gains from yesterday. Ron Ruzewski my engineer did a n awesome job. It was one corner. I guess that made the difference. I didn't want to take too much of a chance, but when they told me I was P2, I only had one lap and the tires were already a little bit shot. Good job to Team Penske to sweep the front row. Now we need to be there at the end."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified third): "We're definitely going to try to get (Will) tomorrow. He's did a great job in qualifying. There's no doubt about it. The Target car was probably a 95 percent car today. I think I left a half a tenth on the table myself with a slight mistake. We'll see what we have tomorrow, but I'm disappointed with third today."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, qualified fourth): "With the tires the way they are, you only have about one lap. The tires we had on the car, we used in the second segment and I missed Turn 3 by a little bit (on my flying lap). The car pushed and I missed 3A. That was the lap. The second lap was good, but it was not as good as the first lap could have been."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified fifth): "I'm pretty happy to be in the Fast Six. P5 is pretty good result for us. We're struggling with the balance and the tires and the wind gusts. It was difficult to get a clean lap. I feel good starting where we are, and hopefully we can get the team Penske car up to the front."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified sixth): "We were a few tenths (of a second) off most of the qualifying. We made a few changes from this morning that helped. Generally, in the Firestone Fast Six we struggled with getting into the corners with grip and kind of backpedaled a little bit. All in all, both Target cars in the top six is good."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, qualified eighth): "We were so far off yesterday that we changed everything in the IZOD car for today and started fresh. So, we really only had one practice session under our belts and I think that was the difference today. We were close, but the road course competition is ridiculous right now. Tomorrow is going to be a great race. We're starting eighth; we can work from there."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Dr Pepper Cherry, qualified ninth): "Obviously, missing yesterday's session (because of a fuel pump problem) hurt us today. We did what we could. But, the way the competition is right now, you can't leave anything on the table. With only an hour to work with this morning, we needed to take a bit of a risk. And, when you do that, you've got to be prepared to be a hero or a zero. We took our shot and could have put it in the top six. We ended up ninth, but it is what it is."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, qualified 14th): "I think we improved the car since the morning practice but the times are so close that we missed progressing to the top-six and Round 2 by hundredths of a second. The difference between progressing to Round 2 and having a shot at a top starting position and starting 14th is very slim. Still I thought the car was quite good. The team did a good job on the car. A good thing is that we have two new sets of red Firestone tires for the race and I think that is an advantage."
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA- KV Racing Technology, qualified 15th): "It was a very disappointing qualifying, not only for me but for everyone on the team. It's frustrating that no one from KV Racing Technology made it into the top-12. We worked last week on improving the car and its seems the changes we made didn't help us this weekend. Today, the track is totally different and that's why we have found it hard to get the right balance with the car. We'll have to make adjustments and be ready for the race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 NHR/Quick Trim, qualified 16th): "The times are really close but the session was frustrating because I really thought we had what it took to progress to the next round. We made some changes for qualifying and the car wasn't quite as good for me but I thought we would still be able to sneak through (to Round 2) but unfortunately I came out of the pits too close to Hideki and I don't think I got one clear lap. When he went out of the pits right away I lifted way off and still caught up to him. It's frustrating because I think we could have gotten to Round 2."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus - KV Racing Technology, qualified 17th): "I am very disappointed. We seemed to be missing something fundamental. We couldn't seem to find the right balance and grip out there. When I changed to the alternate (red) tire, I was able to get better grip but that was irrelevant because the rest of the field also improved. We will go over all the data tonight and prepare for warm-up and the race tomorrow."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified 18th): "It's really disappointing to see the Venom car starting 18th this weekend. I was on fast lap when I went off and lost some time. The field is so tight here and every tenth of a second counts. We'll do the best we can tomorrow with where we're starting but we were hoping for more out of today."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. A.J. Foyt Racing, qualified 21st): "Every time we go out on the track we make improvements. We made a big improvement for qualifying - I believe we'll be competitive in the race but I hope it isn't too late. We're not starting where we wanted but this is a race where fuel strategy counts a lot, so you never know. I'm a little more hopeful for the weekend after qualifying than I was after the first practice."
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, qualified 20th): "We knew we would be in a tough qualifying session today. We jumped into the top-six early in the run. But we didn't have the speed to advance to the next round. We'll have to utilize a fuel strategy for the race. Last year we came from 14th to fourth. We will work on the plan tonight and be ready for the race on Sunday.
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, qualified 23rd): "I was confident we could make it out of the first qualifying session and into the top 12, but it didn't end up working out that way for the GoDaddy team today. I'm going to need to be strong on the start and restarts, and have solid pit stops so we can make up as much ground as possible during the race come tomorrow."
Results of qualifying Saturday for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.303-mile(s) Infineon Raceway, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:
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