POWER WINS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE AWARD FOR INDY GP OF SONOMA

Will Power, Team Penske
Will Power, Team Penske

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

SONOMA, Calif. -- Will Power earned his sixth PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season as Team Penske swept the top-three spots in qualifying for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe will start second and third, respectively.

Power, who won the race in 2010 to wrap up the first Mario Andretti Road Trophy, is the first to earn back-to-back poles at the technically and physically challenging circuit.

Point leader Dario Franchitti will start fourth while his teammate Scott Dixon will start fifth. Rookie James Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 06 Sprott car for Newman/Haas Racing, reached his first Firestone Fast Six.

DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

Will Power pulled on his helmet, turned toward the Infineon Raceway grandstand and gave a thumbs up to his No. 1 fan.

Brian McEnnerny returned the salute before Power climbed in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car for the initial practice of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. He remained in the front row, behind the pit stand, the entire session, watching from his wheelchair.

The boy, who has cerebal palsy, connected with Power during an IZOD IndyCar Series autograph session last year at the Union Square Macy's in San Francisco. McEnnerny began following Power after hearing of his August 2009 practice crash at Infineon Raceway, in which he suffered concussion and compression fractures of his second and fourth lumbar vertebrae.

After meeting McEnnerny, Power learned that he and his family were not able to secure tickets to the race. So, with assistance from the team and raceway officials, tickets were provided.

Power, who started from the pole, won the race to clinch the inaugural Mario Andretti Road Trophy. The team invited McEnnerny into Victory Lane, where he joined in posing for photos with Power, Andretti and the team.

"He's such a pleasant kid," said Power, who provided his fan and team a smile with the second-fastest lap of the session (1 minute, 19.5633 seconds). "I can tell already this year that he's grown quite a bit. He's so enthusiastic. His room is made up of massive Verizon car banners and photos.

He loves coming out here and we love having him out here."

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

- Will Power won his sixth PEAK Performance Pole Award of 2011. He also won poles at St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach, Sao Paulo and Toronto.

- Power won the pole position at Infineon Raceway for the second-straight season. The pole sitter has won the race in each of the last three races at Infineon Raceway.

- Power is the only driver to have qualified for Firestone Fast Six for every race this season.

-Helio Castroneves qualified second, his second front row start in 2011. He also started second at Milwaukee. It is Castroneves' best qualifying performance on a road/street course in 2011.

- Ryan Briscoe qualified third, his fourth top-five start in 2011.

- James Hinchcliffe qualified for Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. His sixth starting spot is his best starting position on a road/street course.

- Ana Beatriz will start 10th. It is her best start in her IZOD IndyCar Series career.

PEAK PERFORMANCE 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 warmup 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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SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE
9 - 9:30 a.m. - IZOD IndyCar Series warmup
1 p.m. - Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma pre-race
1:45 p.m. - Indy Grand Prix of Somona (75 laps), VERSUS (Live).

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The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 28 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Baltimore 100 on Sept. 4 at the Streets of Baltimore. The race will be televised live at Noon (ET) by VERSUS.