Defending IndyCar Series champion and outside title contender Will Power has earned his sixth – and perhaps most crucial Verizon P1 Award of the season ahead of Sunday’s title-deciding 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma finale.
Power broke the track lap record in the Firestone Fast Six shootout for pole with a 1:16.259, earning him his 42nd career pole and putting him fifth overall on the all-time list. Out of six times this year where the qualifying lap record has been broken thanks to the radical new aero kits being run, Power has achieved the feat four times.
“I’m really stoked. I love qualifying and very happy to end the year with a pole position,” said Power, who has won pole position here five times in the last six events. “[There are] lots of points on the table; we’ll go for that win.”
Four of the six drivers in mathematical contention for this year’s championship crown will start in the top six positions for Sunday’s 85-lap race, including CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden, who lines up alongside Power on the front row.
“Getting pole would have helped a lot more. It is worth points and its double points this weekend,” said Newgarden, already a two-time winner this year, but considered a remote chance at the title as he sits 87 points off the championship lead.
“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.”
Andretti Autosport Honda-powered #28 entry Ryan Hunter-Reay – who has bounced back from a poor start to the year by winning two of the last three races – qualified third-fastest alongside Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud.
Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya qualified fifth-fastest in his Team Penske Chevrolet, sharing the third row of the grid with his main championship rival Graham Rahal.
Not known for being a strong qualifier, it marked the first time since 2011 at Motegi that Rahal has managed to run in the Firestone Fast Six session. Rahal will still need for Montoya to have a poor weekend in order to be in with a shot of claiming a maiden championship title for himself.
“[If] we finish third; fourth, fifth it becomes obviously a bit more difficult because you’re banking on Juan finishing twelfth or worse. I don’t think that’s likely.”
Lap times in qualifying were aided by new primary and option Firestone tyres that feature softer compounds with improved grip levels around the 3.57-kilometre circuit, although in the softer tyres will suffer high degradation due to the hot track and ambient temperatures at the Californian circuit.
The two other championship contenders – Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske) – will both find their own championship hopes even slimmer after poor qualifying sessions. Dixon qualified ninth-fastest, while Castroneves couldn’t even make it beyond the opening group phases of qualifying and lines up fifteenth.
With overtaking extremely difficult around this undulating and twisty circuit, neither is expected to make much of an impact.
Sunday’s 85-lap race gets underway at 2:07pm local time (GMT-5).
|2015 IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Qualifying Results|
|Grid||‘Fast Six’ Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Will Power||Team Penske||1:16.2597|
|2.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||1:16.3964||+ 0.1367|
|3.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||1:16.5254||+ 0.2657|
|4.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||1:16.6683||+ 0.4086|
|5.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||1:16.8437||+ 0.5840|
|6.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||1:17.1769||+ 0.9172|
|Grid||‘Top 12’ Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|7.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:16.6669||+ 0.1098|
|8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||1:16.8710||+ 0.3139|
|9.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:16.9677||+ 0.4106|
|10.||Sebastián Saavedra||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:17.1596||+ 0.6025|
|11.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:17.2899||+ 0.7328|
|12.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||1:17.3302||+ 0.7731|
|Grid||‘Group 1’ Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap***|
|13.||Luca Filippi||CFH Racing||1:17.1077||+ 0.2658|
|15.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||1:17.2550||+ 0.4131|
|17.||Ryan Briscoe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:17.4886||+ 0.6467|
|19.||Oriol Servià||Andretti Autosport||1:17.5724||+ 0.7305|
|21.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||1:17.7994||+ 0.9575|
|23.||Tristan Vautier||Dale Coyne Racing||1:17.9876||+ 1.1457|
|Grid||‘Group 2’ Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|14.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:17.3885||+ 0.8183|
|16.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology||1:17.4310||+ 0.8608|
|18.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Racing||1:17.5599||+ 0.9897|
|20.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||1:17.8293||+ 1.2591|
|22.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:17.8698||+ 1.3266|
|24.||Rodolfo González||Dale Coyne Racing||1:18.3867||+ 1.8165|
|25.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Racing||1:19.0408||+ 2.4706|
- * Denotes gap to fastest ‘Top 12’ qualifying session time of 1:16.5571 posted by Will Power. Fastest six qualifiers progress to the ‘Fast Six’ shootout for pole position.
- ** Denotes gap to fastest ‘Group 2’ qualifying session time of 1:16.5702 posted by Will Power. Fastest six qualifiers progress to ‘Top 12’ stage, with the remaining drivers occupying the odd-numbered grid positions 14, 16, 18, etc.
- *** Denotes gap to fastest ‘Group 1’ qualifying session time of 1:16.8419 posted by Simon Pagenaud. Fastest six qualifiers progress to ‘Top 12’ stage, with the remaining drivers occupying the even-numbered grid positions 13, 15, 17, etc.
Image via Motorsport.com
Latest posts by Michael Terminello (see all)
- IndyCar: Dixon claims fourth title in thrilling Sonoma GP - 31 August, 2015
- IndyCar: Power on pole for Sonoma finale - 30 August, 2015
- IndyCar: 2015 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview - 28 August, 2015
- IndyCar: Hunter-Reay wins chaotic Pocono 500 - 24 August, 2015
- IndyCar: Castroneves on pole at Pocono - 23 August, 2015