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Sonoma is Power country

August 26, 2012

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Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series – LAT USA

Will Power said he still worries every time he crests the Turn 3 hill, knowing that if somebody’s there, he could easily have another accident

Now here’s a big surprise – Will Power took his third straight pole on the Raceway at Sonoma – and this time it’s a track record for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma because the circuit’s been changed to 2.385 miles for this race. Power prevailed early in the Firestone Fast Six three-round knockout qualifying on a clear and breezy Saturday afternoon, besting Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe. Power’s 1:17.2709-second lap at 111.116 mph put Briscoe, quickest in the round of 12 to second place at 1:17.4347 (110.881).

It’s a trio of Chevrolet drivers in the top three and four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais starts third with his lap of 1:17.7497/110.431, making him the sole non-Penske or Ganassi driver in the Firestone Fast Six, which is also comprised of Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves in fourth place, Honda drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing completing the sextet.

Rounding out the top 12 are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alex Tagliani (who was nowhere this morning), rookie Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, James Hinchcliffe and Rubens Barrichello. Hinch tweeted this morning that he’d give away his shoes if he made the Firestone Fast Six (darn, I wanted them… ) but unfortunately couldn’t make the grade this afternoon.

As seems to be customary, nobody went out in the first 7-8 minutes of qualifying, with the first car out in Group 1 with 7:30 remaining and the first car out in Group 2 with 8:30 still on the clock. Several drivers noted the wind was difficult as it changed direction from morning to mid-afternoon.

Although he gave way to Briscoe during the second round, there was no stopping Power in the final 10 minutes. “It’s 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,” Power said. “I really like this track and I would love to make it three in a row here,” should he win on Sunday. The wind really made the car unstable in the last two days, so it will be interesting to see what the wind is like tomorrow… ”

Briscoe admitted “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.

Bourdais is proud that his team has “come a long ways, obviously, from the start of the season with all the struggles we had to go through. The last few events, you see we have been getting better and better and the team has done a great job; we tested here and it’s definitely helped us quite a bit.” For those under a rock, Seb’s Dragon Racing team began the year with Lotus power – they were the final squad to request Lotus engines and the final of three to desert the brand, along with Dreyer & Reinbold and Bryan Herta Autosport.

Cars and drivers to look for as they move forward on this track tomorrow include Marco Andretti, who won his first izod IndyCar Series race here in 2006 and lines up 14th, Tony Kanaan from 18th on the grid, Oriol Servia starting 20th and Josef Newgarden, who lost two seconds from morning practice to qualifying and lines up 23rd in the 27-car field. Ed Carpenter is last on the grid.

At this time, there have been no further engine issues and INDYCAR will announce the actual grid after morning warmup which is scheduled for 9-9:30, if the fog lifts, which it didn’t do until well past 10AM today.

By Anne Proffit

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