Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske-Chevrolet scored his sixth pole position of the season and the 42nd of his Indy car career after a fascinating qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway which saw interesting team tactics come into play as they attempted to extract the most from Firestone’s tire compounds. It was Power’s fifth pole at this track.
Several drivers were worried beforehand as to how long the reds would last, and it was telling that Power’s pole run of 1min16.2597sec – one second faster than his existing lap record from last year – was set on a fresh set of the black [hard] compounds. It was also his third run of the Fast Six session, the first two coming on used reds.
“I just knew what Josef [Newgarden]’s time was and needed to beat that,” said Power. “Our strategy was just to do two runs and just use reds, the sets that we used in the previous rounds. We didn’t think anyone would put blacks on but he did and he went quicker. So we had no choice at the very end but to put them on. He kind of showed us the way. If he had put them on at the end, I have a feeling he would have got the pole.”
And so for the second consecutive year here at Sonoma, Power will be joined on the front row by Newgarden. The American who retains a strictly mathematical chance of taking the 2015 title, was only 0.14sec slower in the CFH Racing-Chevy and that put him a similar margin ahead of Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was fourth.
And perhaps most fascinating of all, the primary championship contenders, Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal will line up together on the third row. The Penske championship leader did just one run in the final session, some 0.6sec slower than his polesitting teammate, but enough to eclipse the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda driver, who admitted he wasn’t yet happy with his setup.
Another title contender, Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevrolet’s three-time champ Scott Dixon was a surprising victim of Q2 after running through dirt that had been dragged onto the track by a rival. Even more shocking, though, was Helio Castroneves falling in Q1. Penske’s three-time Indy 500 champ will start 15th, just one spot ahead of KV Racing-Chevy’s Sebastien Bourdais.
Charlie Kimball ended up top Ganassi qualifier with seventh fastest, but series returnee Sebastian Saavedra’s P10 was scarcely less impressive.
Meanwhile Oriol Servia continued his progress, only 0.8sec slower than fastest in his Q1 group. He will drive the ex-Justin Wilson Andretti entry from 19th slot out of 25 starters tomorrow.
Adrenaline on demand. Get the new INDYCAR 15 app with in-car cameras, real-time dashboard and live team chatter.