GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Qualifying Report

2015-sonoma-race16“It was a good day after breaking the track record in practice one this morning. I had a really good car this morning. The heat made things a little bit more difficult for qualifying but, as they say, it’s the same for everyone. We had P1 locked up for a good part of the (Firestone) Fast Six. Just lost out a little bit on tires’ choice at the end. In hindsight I went with the strong set of tires. We went with a used set and they didn’t quite get us through. Starting P3 tomorrow we can, hopefully, get it done. Good to have the DHL Honda starting up front.”

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power reset his year-old track record in the Firestone Fast Six to earn the Verizon P1 Award and pace four of the six championship contenders who will start on the first three rows for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, this is the fourth track record broken by Power this season and the sixth track record broken in 2015 following the introduction of aero kits by Chevrolet and Honda.

Three rounds of qualifications set the 25-car grid for the 85-lap race Aug. 30 (1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) that carries double base points along with bonus points for the pole (one point), leading a lap (one) and leading the most laps (two).

Power claimed his sixth pole start of the season and 42nd of his career, which is fifth on the all-time Indy car list.

“I’m really stoked. I love qualifying and (am) very happy to end the year with a pole position,” said Power, a three-time winner at Sonoma Raceway who has started from the pole five times in the past six years for this race. “Lots of points on the table; we’ll go for that win.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, has stood atop the standings since winning the season opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and holds a 34-point lead over Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Montoya’s most direct path to his second Indy car title – separated by 16 years – is to finish first or second. The other contenders’ script also is clear.

“Win. That’s the best-case scenario,” said Rahal, who advanced to the Firestone Fast Six qualifying format used on all Verizon IndyCar Series road and street courses for the first time since Twin Ring Motegi in 2011. “We finish third, fourth, fifth (in the race), it becomes obviously a bit more difficult because you’re banking on Juan finishing 12th or worse. I don’t think that’s likely.”

Josef Newgarden, a two-time race winner this season, earned his second front-row start in the 16 races this season.

“Getting pole would’ve helped a lot more. It is worth points and it’s double points this weekend,” said Newgarden, driving the No. 67 GoPro CFH Racing Chevrolet. “We’ve got a really good car. We’re hoping to have a good race. It starts with qualifying and we did a pretty decent job there. If we keep clean, we have a shot at winning that thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three races in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, qualified a season-high third. He’ll share Row 2 with Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet.

Here is where the remaining title contenders qualified (with championship standings position and points behind leader in parentheses):

  • First — Will Power (fourth, -61 points), 1:16.2597 best lap, Firestone Fast Six (track record);
  • Second — Josef Newgarden (sixth, -87 points), 1:16.3964 best lap, Firestone Fast Six;
  • Fifth — Juan Pablo Montoya (first), 1:16.6631 best lap, Round 2; 1:16.8437 Firestone Fast Six;
  • Sixth — Graham Rahal (second, -34 points), 1:16.6435 best lap, Round 2; 1:17.1769 Firestone Fast Six;
  • Ninth — Scott Dixon (third, -47 points), 1:16.7365 best lap, Round 1;
  • 15th — Helio Castroneves (fifth, -77 points), 1:17.2550 best lap, Round 1.

This marks the 10th consecutive season that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be decided in the final race.

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