Dario Franchitti will lead an all-Target Chip Ganassi Racing front row for IndyCar’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma after triumphing in qualifying. The Scot had a new set of red tires saved for the final qualifying phase and he made the most of them, posting a 1m17.5271s that proved strong enough to withstand Scott Dixon’s best time by 0.19s.
“In Q1 we just did the one lap on the reds, and it was a pretty good time,” said Franchitti. “So they brought me in and we thought there was a lot of good still left in the tires, so we put them on again for the second run and the car was good again.
“I made a couple of mistakes, so I was surprised to be so close to the guys on the new reds. Then we had the new reds on for the Fast Six — which is just as well, because I totally screwed up Turn 6 on both laps.”
Will Power will start from third alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay, leaving championship leader Helio Castroneves and Charlie Kimball to complete row three.
Aside from Franchitti’s tire gamble, the story of the afternoon was the wind, which had completely changed direction from the earlier practice session. According to Hunter-Reay, the effect was enormous.
“It’s massive,” he said. “It surprised me. It’s more like the wind effect at an oval. Here, the wind goes one way and the car’s hooked up; it goes the other way, and you’re out to lunch.
“It’s a different racetrack,” he added. “Different turning points, different braking points… it’s amazing how much it changes.”
Castroneves, meanwhile, was in danger of not making the Fast Six in the first place; the Brazilian only bumping Justin Wilson from sixth in the final seconds of the second segment.
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time Gap 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda 1m17.5271s 2. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 1m17.7196s +0.1925s 3. Will Power Penske/Chevy 1m17.9735s +0.4464s 4. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 1m18.1314s +0.6043s 5. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 1m18.1766s +0.6495s 6. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 1m18.2009s +0.6738s 7. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 1m18.2138s Round 2 8. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 1m18.3051s Round 2 9. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy 1m18.3135s Round 210. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 1m18.3787s Round 211. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy 1m18.6230s Round 212. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy 1m26.7515s Round 213. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 1m18.9164s Group 114. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda 1m18.3141s Group 215. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy 1m18.9344s Group 116. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 1m18.3318s Group 217. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 1m19.0094s Group 118. JR Hildebrand Barracuda/Honda 1m18.7114s Group 219. James Jakes Rahal/Honda 1m19.1563s Group 120. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy 1m18.8967s Group 221. James Davison Coyne/Honda 1m19.5285s Group 122. Ryan Briscoe Panther/Chevy 1m18.9743s Group 223. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy 1m19.5298s Group 124. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 1m19.2376s Group 225. Lucas Luhr Fisher/Honda 1m19.9805s Group 2