Will Power romped to his fourth pole of the season, second in a row this year and third in a row at Sonoma with a 1:17.2709 around the newly remeasured and slightly reconfigured 2.385-mile Sonoma road course. Power's won the last two Sonoma races in authoritative fashion and a three-peat tomorrow would stretch his championship lead from five points into double digits.
The Firestone Fast 6 qualifiers comprised the top six finishers of a year ago, albeit not in the same order in which they finished. Ryan Briscoe, fastest of everyone else all weekend other than Power, locked out the front row for Team Penske.
“He was quick, but I was better,” Power joked in the post-qualifying press conference. “I'd actually expect a lot of action tomorrow – hopefully not involving me.”
Briscoe rued losing what would have been his third pole of the season; alas, it marked his fifth Firestone Fast 6 appearance of the year and third consecutive.
“You have to adjust for the wind here, that makes the biggest difference,” he said. “It was a solid run. I didn't get enough out of the first lap in Q3.”
Sebastien Bourdais records his best start of the season in third, bettering his fourth in Toronto, in one of the two TrueCar/McAfee Dragon Racing Chevrolets. Helio Castroneves in fourth makes it four Chevys in the top four positions, ahead of the two Target Chip Ganassi Racing entries from Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
“We have a much better idea of what we need on our car now compared to the start of the year,” Bourdais said.
Power led a Penske podium sweep a year ago ahead of Castroneves and Briscoe and as the Australian remains in pursuit of his first series title, he'll be relying on his teammates to help support the cause – even as Castroneves is still within range at 26 points back of Power in third place.
“The only (team) order for us is that we don't crash,” Briscoe said.
Bourdais in third was, like a year ago in the race, the only driver outside the Penske and Target Ganassi stables in the top six.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was the only one of the four main title contenders to miss the fast six, but a seventh represented a marked improvement from 19th a year ago. He led the quartet of Andretti Autosport entries and was the only one of them in the top 10.
Alex Tagliani missed the Firestone Fast 6 for the first time since his Barracuda Racing squad switched to Hondas in May, in eighth, with Simon Pagenaud and Justin Wilson completing the top 10 qualifiers.
Wilson is one of four who will take a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change and falls to 20th; Sebastian Saavedra just missed advancing out of Q1 and is the highest of the other three (13th to 23rd) with Takuma Sato and Simona de Silvestro also set to drop to the back of the field.
Qualifying struggles continued for the Panther and DRR squads (JR Hildebrand 15th, Oriol Servia 18th, each in alternate liveries this weekend), the KV Racing Technology trio with only Rubens Barrichello (11th) advancing out of Q1, and neither driver from the second Ganassi squad made it out of Q1 either (Graham Rahal 13th, Charlie Kimball 22nd).
The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma goes green at 4:40 p.m. Eastern Sunday on NBC Sports Network.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m17.2709s
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m17.4347s + 0.1638s
3. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m17.7497s + 0.4788s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy 1m18.1090s + 0.8381s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m18.2126s + 0.9417s
6. Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m18.3462s + 1.0753s
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m18.3355s Round 2
8. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda 1m18.4168s Round 2
9. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda 1m18.4334s Round 2
10. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m18.6258s Round 2
11. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m18.7885s Round 2
12. Rubens Barrichello KV Dallara-Chevy 1m18.9788s Round 2
13. Sebastian Saavedra AFS/Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m18.8918s Group 1
14. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy 1m18.8925s Group 2
15. Graham Rahal Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m18.8981s Group 1
16. Mike Conway Foyt Dallara-Honda 1m18.9048s Group 2
17. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy 1m19.0931s Group 1
18. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy 1m18.9475s Group 2
19. EJ Viso KV Dallara-Chevy 1m19.3953s Group 1
20. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy 1m18.9672s Group 2
21. Katherine Legge Dragon Dallara-Chevy 1m19.6414s Group 1
22. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda 1m19.0262s Group 2
23. Josef Newgarden Fisher Dallara-Honda 1m19.7468s Group 1
24. Takuma Sato Rahal Dallara-Honda 1m19.2821s Group 2
25. Simona de Silvestro HVM Dallara-Lotus 1m20.2295s Group 1
26. James Jakes Coyne Dallara-Honda 1m19.5152s Group 2
27. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy 1m19.6837s Group 2