Will Power races to IndyCar pole in Sonoma
Since breaking his back in an accident several years ago on the Infineon Raceway road course, Will Power has owned this place. Last year he won pole and then the race and today he cruised to pole position to lead a Penske 1-2-3 for tomorrow's IndyCar race.
Power was the only driver in the Fast Six shootout to break into the 1m18s bracket.
Power recorded a top lap of 1:18.6017 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda. The effort represented the second consecutive pole at the 2.3-mile wine country road course for Power, who also won last season’s race at the venue. Saturday’s qualifying also represented Team Penske’s first 1-2-3 qualifying result of the season and its first since it took the top three starting spots at Motegi, Japan last season.
For Power, the pole is extra special because it comes at a track where he suffered a season-ending injury after a practice crash in 2009 and he made a triumphant return to Infineon Raceway in 2010 as he was crowned Mario Andretti Road Course Champion after he led the most laps and claimed victory from the pole position. With the point earned for the pole, Power now trails Dario Franchitti by just 46 points in the race for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
“This qualifying session was as perfect as it could go,” said Power, who was second in practice on Friday and third in Saturday’s morning’s practice session. “We were a little concerned after practice and didn’t know if we had the pace or not, but we made some good changes before qualifying. We were able to put a perfect lap together that was mistake free and hit all of the sectors and that was the key to posting the quickest lap. I am very happy with the efforts of Verizon Team Penske and having all three Team Penske cars up top today was really indicative of the work we have done. We were struggling a little bit on road courses so we have worked hard on improving the car and this is a result of the hard work.”
Helio Castroneves will start 2nd ahead of the third Penske car of Ryan Briscoe.
Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti, who leads the point standings, will start 4th ahead of his teammate Scott Dixon in 5th.
Rounding out the Fast Six was rookie James Hinchcliffe driving for Newman/Haas in the first non-Penske/Ganassi car.
Sunday’s 75-lap Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will get the green flag at 4:45 p.m. ET with live coverage beginning at 4 p.m. on VERSUS.
POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "This qualifying session was as perfect as it could go. We were a little concerned after practice and didn't know if we had the pace or not, but we made some good changes before qualifying. We were able to put a perfect lap together that was mistake free and hit all of the sectors and that was the key to posting the quickest lap. I am very happy with the efforts of Verizon Team Penske and having all three Team Penske cars up top today was indicative of the work we have done. We were struggling a little bit on road courses so we have worked hard on improving the car and this is a result of the hard work.
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Penske Truck Racing, qualified third): "The hard work of Team Penske is paying off and now we seem to be executing the car. This is a great achievement from our standpoint of the No. 6 crew side. We didn't have the best of days yesterday as we had issues with the brakes. We came on strong today and were fighting for the top spot all day long. It feels great and hopefully we can move up a little tomorrow as well."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified fourth): "We worked really hard on getting both of the Target cars ready for qualifying and to have good balance on the Firestone black tires. We tried putting the red tires on and the car was terrible. We tried to put up a fast lap and get the time we needed. We made a couple of changes throughout the session but just didn't quite have it. We have a lot of work to do tonight because we are going to have to use the red tires for one segment of the race tomorrow.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America, qualified eighth): "I screwed up. It's not bad bad but it should have been better. I anticipated the track would get grippier and better, but it didn't. It's on me. Tomorrow will be a game of not making mistakes."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified fifth): "The cars were good this morning in cool weather but once the track heated up we really struggled with the grip. I'm surprised we didn't gain that much on red tires and Penske seemed to stay the same as what they were the morning, so it's a little bit frustrating. We obviously messed up quite a bit there. I think this is just about our worst qualifying on road courses this year. I think that both cars will be strong in the race but it's really tough to qualify especially when you're here in Sonoma when you can't pass."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske, qualified second): "Wow, I'm so happy to be starting on the front row in our Guidepoint Systems car. It has been awhile since I've started up front and here and it feels awesome. It is a great result for Team Penske to start 1-2-3. I have to thank all my guys for all their hard work and thank everyone for sticking with me through what has been a difficult season. Now, tomorrow we just have to go out there and finish the job and bring home a strong result for the team."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing, qualified sixth): "It's cool to see a blue car up there. It's something that Oriol's done a couple of times this year and it's nice now to add my name to the list. We didn't have the best day yesterday and we didn't have the best run this morning so we weren't quite sure what to do and we were in a little bit of crisis mode. We really buckled down and put our heads together and asked the guys to do a lot of changes to the car during qualifying and I thank them for actually getting it done and it seem to work out alright so I'm really happy to get into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time."
E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, qualified ninth): "So far this weekend has been very challenging for the team. This is a very difficult track to come up with the right setup. It requires us to sacrifice something in one corner to gain in another, so we still need to try and find the right solution. Qualifying ninth for the race is very important as it's always a very long race and this will give us a better chance for a good result."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "Our qualifying effort was not what we wanted; it didn't make our weekend easy for us. We tried to guess what the red Firestone alternate's would do and we went a little too far and couldn't put it together. I had one lap that I thought the car was good enough but I just couldn't push it enough. And the next lap that I pushed, the tires had already went off. I couldn't put it together but at least James saved qualifying for the team. We actually looked like the best of the rest after the Penske's and Ganassi's. Well done for James and hopefully we can put it together for tomorrow. This is a track that, yes, it is very difficult to pass but it is a race that for some reason a lot of stuff, a lot of yellows and different strategies so there is no reason to give up at all. We would have preferred to qualify better - no doubt - but there is still a definite possibility of moving the Telemundo car forward tomorrow."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "Qualifying didn't go our way today. We were hoping for some speed after practice earlier, but we didn't quite have it. We'll work hard to get the GoDaddy.com car ready for the race and move up the field tomorrow."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "We're frustrated. We thought the No. 38 Service Central car was quick enough to get us to the final round of qualifying. It just didn't work out. The car was very loose and our timing was off. We had a lap going that was going to be strong, but I had to lift because Scott (Dixon) came out of the pits which I didn't think would kill our run. When I got back up to speed, I had one more good lap and unfortunately (Sebastian) Saavedra spun in front of us so we didn't even get a shot at it. Another disappointing factor is we'll be racing in Baltimore next weekend and it's going to be a tight street circuit; we're going to be pitted in the middle of pit lane and that's not what we want. We want to be pitted up front like we are here at Infineon Raceway. We're starting 13th tomorrow, which isn't ideal, but the Service Central team will rebuild tonight and we'll be strong the race."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "It is a little disappointing for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. We got a little aggressive with the qualifying set-up, hoping it would push us a little bit more to nab a spot in the top-10. With the sun coming out this afternoon, it kind of bit us. It's a shame to be starting 26th because I know we have a lot more speed in the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car, but the race tomorrow is long and I know we'll have a good strategy and good pace if we get to show it."
GIORGIO PANTANO (No. 22 TranSystems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "I'm not that happy, to be honest. I was convinced that we would be in a better position, but that's okay because tomorrow is a long day. This was my first qualifying after six years, and tomorrow is a long race tomorrow and we will work hard to bring home a good result."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Team Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "We came to the test with a couple of ideas and we tried different things that helped us find another fast way. I'm really glad that we found it and that we came here and were competitive. I'm really happy that we were able to make it into the fast twelve. Unfortunately, in the second qualifying we didn't quite get the grip that we had in the first session, but I'm happy with where we ended up. I'm really proud of the Ipiranga crew and I would like to thank Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for all of their hard work. We have been pushing really hard and it's great to be in the top-ten. We will push hard tomorrow during the race and hopefully we can get a good result.
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 @FollowAndretti): "The car is pretty good until the tires start to fall off. You can get about two or three laps with the red (Firestone) tires in qualifying. If you get a good rhythm, you can improve on your fourth lap. But it is tough. I'm sorry that qualifying didn't work out for the rest of the guys because they took my direction on the setup. They didn't seem to have a good run. The track in qualifying wasn't the same as practice. When I went out on the reds (tires), I said, 'Whew, the track isn't as good as before.' But we have decent starting spot. I'd sure like to put the car up on the podium again. The first time I came here in 2009, I was third. I didn't get a chance to race here last year."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We had some issues in the first round of qualifying that we really hadn't seen before. We were off about seven tenths of a second in two of the slowest corners on the track. Those should be the easiest corners for us. They are second gear turns. It is a little like street course handling. Wow, we have to get it figured out for Sunday's race. Sunday is really the only day that counts."
HO-PIN TUNG (No. 88 Mouser.com Schmidt Dragon Racing): "Today went well for the Dragon Racing Sam Schmidt team. We wish we could have qualified the car in a better position, but an error I made on our last lap, cost us about 2 positions. The car handled well and I felt comfortable completing my first qualifying attempt in IndyCar. Tomorrow will be a big day for me making my first real IndyCar debut and I hope to make a strong run here in Sonoma."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "I am extremely disappointed. We have tried several changes, but they didn't give us enough speed. Tonight we have to look at all the data and find something for the race tomorrow."
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "It's just disappointing. We couldn't find a good balance for the car both yesterday and today and that translated to a bad qualifying run. We'll work overnight to find a solution for tomorrow's warm-up and see how that goes. Hopefully we can do better than this for the race."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team All Natural Snapple): "We were limited on the front of the car and that's where we lost the most lap time today. We're really struggling a bit with the car - it was too conservative for qualifying. For qualifying you have to make the car turn and the Snapple car wasn't turning today. We'll do our best to gain track position during the race tomorrow."
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