Will Power led a Penske 1-2-3 sweep of qualifying for Sunday's IZOD IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix at Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.
The Australian captured his sixth pole of the season (all on road or street courses), second consecutive at Sonoma and first since Toronto early in July.
“I think the key was minimal laps in the first two rounds,” Power said. “We knew we had some work to do, testing was worthwhile. That's what we need more of and what we're heading toward.”
Power dropped the hammer on his teammates, with a fastest lap of 1:18.6017 more than four tenths quicker than Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, each in the low 1:19-second range. Castroneves equals his best starting position of the year, previously achieved at the one-mile oval in Milwaukee.
“I knew what I had to do, and especially with old tires the car seemed better than on new tires,” Castroneves said.
Following the Penske trio, Target Chip Ganassi Racing pilots Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon completed the top five on the grid. The same five drivers finished in the top five positions in last year's Sonoma race and seem primed to do likewise in 2011.
All five drivers needed minimal laps to maximize their times. Power said the softer Firestone red tires netted roughly one second per lap around the 2.303-mile circuit, and they showed what they could do in the morning practice session when Martin Plowman topped the times with a set of reds.
“The red tires are the reason we went so fast, they gained basically a second,” Power said.
The only one separating themselves from the dominance of the series' two power teams was Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing, who lines up sixth. After leading 26 laps at Mid-Ohio, Hinchcliffe eclipsed his previous best start of seventh set at Mid-Ohio.
Missing out of the Firestone Fast Six but still registering top ten starts were Mike Conway (Andretti Autosport), Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing), E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology-Lotus) and Ana Beatriz (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing).
Viso has consistently been quickest of the three KVRT entries this weekend; Tony Kanaan is mired in 21st in his first race with John Dick as engineer. Meanwhile Beatriz secures both her best start and first top ten start in IndyCar to date. She out-qualified new teammate Giorgio Pantano by one position; the Italian slots in 11th.
Others of note: Plowman (15th) and James Jakes (17th) also secure career best starting positions, Loudon protagonists Oriol Servia and Ryan Hunter-Reay line up right behind each other in 18th and 19th, Simon Pagenaud made it to 22nd in the HVM Racing entry while Ho-Pin Tung makes his IndyCar debut from 24th.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1m18.602s (Q3)
2. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m19.092s (Q3) + 0.490s
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m19.111s (Q3) + 0.505s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m19.164s (Q3) + 0.545s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m19.389s (Q3) + 0.788s
6. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 1m19.545s (Q3) + 0.853s
7. Mike Conway Andretti 1m18.939s (Q2) + 0.337s
8. Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 1m18.971s (Q2) + 0.370s
9. Ernesto Viso KV 1m19.072s (Q2) + 0.471s
10. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 1m19.110s (Q2) + 0.508s
11. Giorgio Pantano Dreyer & Reinbold 1m19.241s (Q2) + 0.640s
12. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 1m19.803s (Q2) + 1.202s
13. Graham Rahal Ganassi 1m19.331s (Q1) + 0.729s
14. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m19.378s (Q1) + 0.770s
15. Martin Plowman AFS/Sam Schmidt 1m19.379s (Q1) + 0.776s
16. Takuma Sato KV 1m19.384s (Q1) + 0.719s
17. James Jakes Dale Coyne 1m19.474s (Q1) + 0.873s
18. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 1m19.396s (Q1) + 0.739s
19. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m19.640s (Q1) + 1.039s
20. JR Hildebrand Panther 1m19.465s (Q1) + 0.864s
21. Tony Kanaan KV 1m19.727s (Q1) + 1.125s
22. Simon Pagenaud Dreyer & Reinbold 1m19.564s (Q1) + 0.962s
23. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 1m19.752s (Q1) + 1.150s
24. Ho-Pin Tung Sam Schmidt Dragon 1m19.589s (Q1) + 0.988s
25. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m19.785s (Q1) + 1.184s
26. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 1m19.835s (Q1) + 1.233s
27. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 1m20.627s (Q1) + 2.713s
28. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m20.121s (Q1) + 1.837s