Power breaks record to win pole in Sonoma

Will Power
Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing

Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Will Power claimed his second consecutive Verizon P1 Award, and fourth of the season, with a lap of 1 minute, 17.4126 seconds in Firestone Fast Six qualifications for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, reset the track record he established in 2012 with a lap of 1:17.2393 (111.161 mph) in the first of the three rounds on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course.

It was the fourth pole at Sonoma Raceway for Power, who has won three of the past four Verizon IndyCar Series races on the scenic circuit.

"It's a track-position race and starting on pole puts us in a good position," said Power. "If it's a normal sort of strategy, we've put ourselves in a great position to win the race. But you know how these races go. You've got to get everything right on race day and we're going to try and do that."

Power on the softer red tires takes pole

With the bonus point for the pole, Power takes a 40-point advantage over teammate Helio Castroneves into the 85-lap race Aug. 24.

"We know we have a very good car and hopefully we'll have a good race," said Castroneves, who qualified sixth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske entry. "You have to be aggressive in a way that puts you in position going to the last race to win the championship."

The season-closing MAVTV 500 on Aug. 30 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval carries double points.

"Every point counts but there are a lot of points on the table and lots of racing left," Power added. "I just have to focus on the job at hand."

Josef Newgarden tied his career-best qualification effort of second on a road/street course (Mid-Ohio earlier this month) with a lap of 1:17.7318 in the No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry.

Reigning series champion Scott Dixon qualified third in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and will share Row 2 with James Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car for Andretti Autosport. Ryan Briscoe, who scored his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole at Sonoma Raceway in 2005 and won in 2012, will start on Row 3 with Castroneves.

In other racing action on Saturday, Florian Latorre clinched the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title with a victory in Race #2.

Seventeen-year-old Mexican Jose Gutierrez emerged with his first-ever victory in Race #2 for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, while his Juncos Racing teammate Spencer Pigot claimed the championship spoils.

Englishman Jack Harvey maintained his dominance on road courses by romping to victory in today's Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma. Harvey's third win of the season vaulted him to second place in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires point standings, just 12 points behind second-place finisher Gabby Chaves. The series championship will be decided in tomorrow’s Indy Lights Race #2.

Mike Skeen (GT), Michael Mills (GT-A) and Jack Baldwin (GTS) took wins in Saturday’s Round 13 of the Pirelli World Challenge season, the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma. Skeen and Baldwin led flag-to-flag in their classes, with Skeen securing his third win of the season (first since Round 8 at Road America) and Baldwin his second (Round 4, Barber). Meanwhile, Mills won his fourth straight GT-A race, and fifth this year.

Action continues tomorrow at Sonoma Raceway with Indy Lights Race #2 at 11 a.m., the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at 1:40 p.m. and World Challenge Race #2 at 4:40 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at the gate. For more information, visit www.racesonona.com/indycar or call 800-870-RACE.

###

SONOMA, Calif. – Qualifying Saturday for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:17.4126 (110.912)
2. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 01:17.7318 (110.457)
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 01:17.9044 (110.212)
4. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 01:17.9565 (110.138)
5. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.1217 (109.905)
6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.8771 (108.853)
7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 01:17.7176 (110.477)
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:17.7231 (110.469)
9. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 01:17.7257 (110.465)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 01:17.7499 (110.431)
11. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 01:17.7532 (110.426)
12. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.7700 (109.001)
13. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.2681 (109.700)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.1249 (109.901)
15. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.2767 (109.688)
16. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.2296 (109.754)
17. (20) Mike Conway, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.3518 (109.583)
18. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.2310 (109.752)
19. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.8102 (108.945)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.4104 (109.501)
21. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 01:18.9603 (108.738)
22. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 01:18.5202 (109.348)

Notes
– Josef Newgarden has yet to sign his contract offer with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (or whatever it will be called by the time he might sign). Josef has several desirable traits beyond his on-track performance — an American kid, fresh faced, who is as agreeable to work with as anyone in the paddock. But he is obviously no fool when it comes to contracts.

– Tire management was the key in qualification. The red tires fell off noticeably after the second lap, with the black tires falling off around lap 9-10. Tire management will be key in the race as well, and will probably mandate a 3-stop race for the entire field. Give or take, of course, any caution flags along the way.

– Brakes have been a sore point with drivers since the introduction of this version of the chassis. This weekend the frustration boiled over, as James Hinchcliffe spun 5 times — twice in one lap — due to brake issues. Simeon Pagenaud called out the brakes by brand name in his miserable day.

-To win at Sonoma, you gotta start up front. Then again, that's what we said about Mid-Ohio, before Scott Dixon put on a driving exhibition in one of the most dominating performances in IndyCar history. However, barring such a performance from a back marker, history tells us that the winner will come from the top 4-5 spots.

Tim Wohlford, reporting from Sonoma

Quotes

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "Overall I am happy with the result. The Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team did a really good job. The car was competitive on both black (primary) and red (alternate) tires. Unfortunately, in the second round of qualifying, I made a mistake on the first lap on the reds and that is the lap you need to put everything together. So that was pretty much that. I just feel bad for the team. They deserved a top-six car. I will just have to try and make up for it tomorrow. We will have to see what kind of animal we get tomorrow in the race. Sometimes it is filled with yellows, sometimes it is green all the way. Hopefully we can move forward and get a strong result in the Hydroxycut machine."

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Today went well but, obviously, since we didn't test here I am at a big disadvantage with not knowing the circuit. That doesn't help my performance and there is just a lack of overall grip. I think that is just part of this track that I have to get used to. The track is fun, if you have a good car and you go faster, you will always have more fun. All of the corners are difficult especially the blind corners and the quick change of direction. I'm hoping I can finish the race tomorrow. If it is a normal race it will be difficult but if the conditions are right, we could make something happen."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers KV AFS Chevrolet): "Unfortunately qualifying didn't go how we wanted. The car is very good but we have had some issues with the brakes, which we weren't able to resolve. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. It's going to be more challenging starting from where we are, so strategy will play a big part. We have strong pace and I love this track so I'm hoping that we have a good finish tomorrow."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "To get the Verizon Chevy to start up front tomorrow, it puts us in a good position. If it's a normal sort of strategy we've put ourselves in a great position to win the race, but you know how these races go. You've got to get everything right on race day and we're going to try and do that."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "We had a rough day, both practice sessions we were really battling a problem with the brakes, I spun five times – I spun twice on the same lap at one point, so it wasn't looking good. But that's why I love this team, we just put our heads down and didn't let it get to us. The guys gave me a great car for qualifying. From where we were and the amount of times I ended up backwards today, I'm really happy to have the United Fiber & Data car starting on the second row tomorrow."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): "I came up over a blind rise and there was a car stopped right on my sight line which put me way off line and we lost the nine-hundredths we needed to transfer into the top 12. The race car will be fine, but it's Sonoma – it's hard to pass. We're going to need a yellow fest like last year. I started 11th and finished fourth last year with yellows and good restarts. But if it runs green the whole time, we might be in trouble."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We were going for pole and we gambled on something really big on the setup. We just made a really big, aggressive move on it and the car just wouldn't take it. Unfortunately we're at the point now where we can start getting creative with our approach. Two races left – we basically have to win them both and the Penskes have to DNF, so we're going for it. To be starting 10th is a shame and we'll have to make it up tomorrow. We'll have to pass cars on the track, pass in pit lane and also have a good strategy to go along with it. Fingers crossed – it's going to be a long race tomorrow, everyone will have their hands full. We're a bit disappointed where we're sitting now, but we can make it up tomorrow in the DHL car."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): "Qualifying went okay. It's a shame we didn't get in to the Firestone Fast Six – all the times were so close, less than one-tenth. During my last lap on the Firestone reds, I was going faster to get into the top six and I just lost the rear and lost that quick time. Track position is really important here, and we're starting ninth so it's an okay position. Tomorrow we have a long race ahead. It's IndyCar: anything is possible. The main goal is to finish the race and take away big points."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We've been (on the front row) a couple times this year. I've been figuring it out. It's interesting here. This was our worst track in 2012. It honestly was. We were horrible. I think we were two seconds off in 2012. Starting up front is a big deal. I think it's a very difficult track to understand as a driver. With a team, you are trying to drive an engineering group for what you need around this place. The direction that you feed to them is so critical. I know that a couple times during the test here we made a wrong change and went the wrong way and I lost a second of pace on some of them. That's how critical our set up is at least, so understanding that is really important. I think I've just gotten better at that with the team. It's so cool to see our progress because coming from 2012 nearly starting last. Now we're in 2014 and we're nearly starting first, it's a really cool deal for me so I'm excited for tomorrow."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): "It's very, very competitive. We were seventh in our group which means we missed advancing by one-tenth of a second but that's the way this sport is, you can't miss it at all. It was a hair but we'll be alright tomorrow. We have a lot of work to do overnight but I have confidence in this group and the National Guard car will be alright. This place has always been tough for me but I've had four top-10s here and hopefully we can have another one of those days tomorrow, work through strategy and make our way forward. The elevation here is tough on the tires, tough on the drivers and it will be a long 85 laps around here tomorrow but I'm looking forward to it."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It will be tough to come from 16th starting position. It is really hard to overtake at Sonoma. It is all high speed corners leading into the brake zones so you are always too far back when you get to the brake zone. Having said that, it is going to be about who can look after their tires the best. This track is notorious for being low grip and you are sliding around and that will abuse the tires. If you can get them to last longer than the guy ahead you'll drive right by him. It is not impossible, we just have to get everything right tonight."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "The Fuzzy's car felt better on the alternate (red) tires in qualifying. But we struggled to get through to the next round. We missed out a little on the last lap as the checkered flag came out in front of us. I thought I might have been able to go quicker. But it's hard to say because the tires do drop off after the first few laps. The track was the same as practice this afternoon. We just didn't get enough out of the car to move to round two. We'll have to work on the car for the race now."

Leave a Reply