Sonoma, Calif. - Will Power has stressed a one-race-at-a-time approach to the IZOD IndyCar Series championship as the 2012 season winds down. Earning the pole for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma for the third consecutive year is certainly a less stressful starting point.
Power, who has won the past two races at Sonoma from the pole, set an IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying record for the 2.385-mile, 12-turn layout with a lap of 1 minute, 17.2709 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six on Brasil IT+ Pole Day.
He takes a six-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the championship chase into the 85-lap race Aug. 26.
"It is important to start up front here," Power said. "I just really like this track and I would love to make it three in a row. The whole team has worked hard all year and we'll just continue to push to win the championship. With the (modifications to the road course) expect a lot of passing. Hopefully not of me. I don't want to let anyone by us."
Hunter-Reay was the only driver of the top four in the standings not to qualify for the 10-minute shootout, missing out on bumping Dario Franchitti by 0.0169 of a second in Round 2. Hunter-Reay will start seventh.
Ryan Briscoe, who has three podium finishes in six races at Sonoma and has started in the top five the past five years, also will start on the front row after a best lap of 1:17.4347 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske car. Team Penske swept the podium last year, with Helio Castroneves the race runner-up. He'll start the 85-lap race from the outside of Row 2.
Sebastien Bourdais earned his second consecutive Firestone Fast Six appearance and will start a season-high third in the No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing entry. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Franchitti will share Row 3.
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's good to back on the pole here in Sonoma in the Penske Verizon Chevy #12 car. It is important to start up front here and we are very happy to once again be on the front row, which is where we want to start. This track was great for the team and we look to continue our success as a team here. I just really like this track and I would love to make it three in a row here. The wind really made the car unstable the last two days, so it will be interesting to see what the wind is like tomorrow and it will also be interesting because the race is an extra ten laps. The whole team has worked hard all year and we'll just continue to push to win the Championship -I don't want to let anyone by us tomorrow."
Ryan Briscoe (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "We definitely unloaded strong, the car's been good since practice yesterday and you just sort of adjust for the wind really because it has the biggest impact on the balance around this place and it's pretty tough. It was solid, I didn't quite get enough out of the first lap in Q3, it's tough when you're on used tires to know exactly where the grip is going to by, so I was able to push a little bit harder on the second lap and repeat the time again, but the tires were still old. I'm really proud of the whole team, they prepare so well and Chevrolet as well. I've got a fresh engine this weekend and we'll be ready for the race tomorrow."
Sebastien Bourdais (No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "We came a long ways, obviously, from the start of the season with all the struggles we had to go through. So the last few events you see have been getting better and better and the team has done a great job, and we definitely feel that we have a much better idea of what we need on the car and where we are at. We tested twice here, and it's definitely helped us quite a bit.
We never can find any revelations on the car, but we keep chipping away and finding little stuff. And one after the other, you get closer to these guys. It's not easy. I think everybody, most everybody in the field feels like the guys at Penske have got it all figured out, and they've been dominating all weekend so far. And I don't know what it's going to take. But we've done a pretty good lap. Hats off to the guys at Dragon. And that TrueCar/McAfee Chevy was really good today. So hopefully we can make it stick tomorrow.
Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): "We found some stuff in the car, the Penske Truck Rental guys did a great job in looking into the small details, and we did find something. I'm not allowed to disclose what it was, but certainly improved my end. I'm still far away from my teammates, certainly they did a great job. So obviously better than yesterday, but I'm not happy compared to what my guys have."
Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was OK. I'm happy with the balance. The balance of the car is good. I think we're just lacking grip. If you look at Turn 7 and 9 we're missing quite a bit of speed there in those sections. Some of that might be me. We're missing like a half a tenth to a tenth throughout the whole track which is a bit frustrating. Dario and I are the only two Hondas in the Fast Six so I think we can definitely improve on capability and a couple of different things especially on the hairpin corners."
Dario Franchitti (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We were just sort of debating whether the used reds or the new blacks were going to be better and we found the answer to that. It was something we left to experiment with. You know this stage in the championship the time for being conservative is definitely over. I had a go with it. It didn't work, but we tried. It's good to be in the Firestone Fast Six with as competitive as the series is now, but this is not the end of the Firestone Fast Six you want to be in. We'll try to make some stuff happen tomorrow."
Takuma Sato (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): ""It was another tough day. We really struggled in terms of finding the balance and speed, and finding the grip. We tried a lot of different things and changed philosophies on the set-up overnight and are working really hard to find a solution. We made progress and certainly closed the gap to the top but the gains we made are small steps and are just not enough.
Now we have tried two practice and one qualifying sessions with quite different setups. We need to go through all of the data and make the best out of it. Hopefully we find a more comfortable balance and more speed in tomorrow's warm-up and have a good race in the afternoon. (On 10-spot grid penalty:) Unfortunately it did not make a big difference on our starting our position."
Graham Rahal (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "We're disappointed in today's qualifying run. We were bumped out by a slim margin but that's all it takes. We had a really strong weekend and then it comes down to qualifying and we just didn't have enough. We just have to go back and figure out what's going on. We made the car better than this morning, but we lost everything on two corners. That's all that made the difference but we'll come back fighting in tomorrow's race."
Josef Newgarden (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We're struggling here. This is probably the worst weekend we've had this year. We started off on bad footing last week for the test in Sonoma, and we just haven't been able to take the right steps to get us closer to where we need to be. It's just one of those confusing instances, but we're trying to figure it out. Not knowing where we're missing the speed is the frustrating part.
Normally a lack of speed comes down to something that you can find and pinpoint, but we haven't been able to do that. Typically when we're a little off we know where it is and I know where it is, but it doesn't make much sense right now. We've tried a lot of different things that have made sense, and it's just not working for us. We've just got to try and take what we can get this weekend."
Charlie Kimball (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPenHonda): "Not an ideal qualifying session for the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen car, but we're really close. Just a couple of 10th's would have put us inside the top-12 of qualifying. We were just on the wrong side of that 10. As a team, the whole Novo Nordisk crew did a great job. Tomorrow, we have a really strong car for the race. We'll just have to maximize strategy and opportunities as they come up and move forward throughout the day."
James Hinchcliffe (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "I have to thank my guys - these guys have been slaving away trying to make this buggy quicker. We struggled in the test and we've struggled here all weekend. The gap to the front guys is just mystifying - even to be in the top 10 and be a second off the pace is just so weird. For us, given the weekend that we've had, a starting position inside the top 10 I guess is not terrible, but you know you're never happy with that.
We looked at the data and there was just something so silly in there that cost us about three-tenths of a second that would have put us behind Ryan (Hunter-Reay), up a couple more spots, and on a track where it's so hard to pass every spot counts. We'll see how tomorrow plays out, strategy will come into it. It's a pretty good three (pit) stop race now so we'll see how these Go Daddy guys call the race for us."
Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): ""It's funny. There are some things we weren't happy with the car and other things that felt better. We were in the second group which seemed to be a stronger bunch in the first round of qualfiying. We were faster than a few cars in the first group but we'll have to start behind them due to the starting grid rules. It's encouraging that we closed the gap with the leaders each session. So I think we are improving the car here. We have been more competitive here than other tracks, but it stinks that we have to start behind some cars that are slower. We'll wait and see how the lineup fares after the Sunday warm-up and engine changes."
JR Hildebrand (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "The guys did a great job to make some changes from practice, we were definitely struggling with a few things when practice ended. I think we did a good job making some incremental improvements and adjusting for the red tire. I think I probably over drove my lap a little bit and that probably cost us a couple of tenths. Obviously for me being here at my home track is definitely frustrating, but we've made some improvements and we have a clear direction what we need to continue to improve to make the car good in the race.
We've seen throughout practice that tire ware is a big factor and we'll be heading into the race with an extra set of sticker reds than a lot of the cars in front of us, so that a little bit of silver lining. I think tomorrow's race is going to be tough. We haven't seen quite as many cars go soaring off the track here as we normally do during practice, but that's still not out of the equation. The tires that Firestone has given us here have a significant peak right at the beginning of the runs. Even the black tire, the primary tire, goes off pretty significantly as we go through.
I think that could create a lot of marbles off line, and this place is easy to make mistakes on especially since tomorrow's race will be in the heat of the day. It's going to be about being as mistake free as possible and taking care of the tires. Pretty much everyone is going to be on a three stop strategy so that takes the strategy out the equation a little, so we're going to have to get creative. We've made some improvements to the car and if we can continue doing that we should be in good shape."
Simon Pagenaud (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "We just don't have it. I think we may be missing grip in a few places because, overall, my balance is really good. I think I got the most out of the car but not the most out of the tires. We just don't have as much grip as the Penske cars and a few others. We need to find a little bit more, but the good thing is we have a very good race car. Hopefully, we'll be able to go race hard tomorrow."
Simona De Silvestro (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HMV Racing Lotus): "Well, it's really disappointing. I don't really know what to say. The changes we made are good, so we'll just keep plugging away. I think we have a good car for tomorrow. We'll continue to do our best as a team and hopefully get a good result."
E.J. Viso (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Coming to this race track, which I really like, this is not the way I expected qualifying to go. I believe today's result happened because of the issues we had in both the practice sessions prior to qualifying. In yesterday's practice we had a mechanical problem that affected the fuel pressure and this morning we had a non-team related software problem that affected the clutch.
Since we did not test here last week, did not get any productive practice laps and never even ran on new tires, we went into qualifying with a car we did not know. It was an extreme and difficult situation however I have a lot of faith that we can still have a good race."
Rubens Barrichello (No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): ""I was happy that we made it through to the second round of qualifying. We made an adjustment after the first round, but the car was still on the limit. Hopefully, with a good strategy tomorrow I will be looking at a top-five finish."
Tony Kanaan (No. 11 Mouser Electronics/GEICO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I had a solid first timed lap and the car felt good. On my next lap I was running three tenths of a second faster, but I got blocked going into turn four. That pretty much ended any chance of getting into the second round of qualifying. We will just have to see what we can make happen in the race tomorrow."
Justin Wilson (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda): "I was pretty happy with the overall performance of the car today. It was a shame that we couldn't get the No. 18 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda into the Firestone Fast Six. The car handled really well and was pretty fast, which allowed us to get into the Firestone Fast 12. I got hung up a bit in second round qualifying, which hurt our time. We have to serve a 10-grid penalty since we had to change the engine early after testing here at Sonoma last week. We'll have our work cut out tomorrow for the race, but I think we have a legitimate shot at getting a top 10 finish. The team has done a great job all weekend."
James Jakes (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "Things haven't gone the way we would have liked them to for the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car this weekend in Sonoma. The crew has been doing a great job trying to fix the problems. They are going to make some more changes overnight and we will see how things go in the morning warm-up session tomorrow. We are going to have to start from the rear of the field, but with a little luck we can pass some cars in the race tomorrow and have a good finish."
Mike Conway (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "We improved the car in qualifying but it was frustrating not getting the ultimate lap put together. We still have the final warmup to work on it and get it better."
Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 Team DHL / Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "Two of our wins came when we qualified seventh, so we know we can do it from there, but it's still frustrating to miss the (Firestone) Fast Six. We had five laps of fuel in the car, but we had trouble with the starter on pit lane, so that meant we only had time for four laps in that session. We missed sixth by a few hundreths (of a second), so that fuel level would have made the difference in the lap time.
Historically this has not been one of our best tracks, and considering how we struggled yesterday, we shouldn't be bummed by seventh. We have a lot of sponsors here with us here this weekend for Andretti Autosport, and we really want to do a good job for DHL and Sun Drop and all of the sponsors that make a difference for us."
Marco Andretti (Team RC Cola Chevrolet): "We had a good lap going, but I got blocked in the last turn. We just had a drivers meeting where they said the driver would be penalized for doing something like that, but it didn't happen. We've had top-ten pace all weekend, so I think we can move forward in the race. The positive thing about missing the second qualifying session is that we have an extra set of (Firestone) Reds for the race, which could be a big advantage. The race is 10 laps longer this year, so that means a three (pit)-stops, and we can be more strategic about the race tomorrow."