WILL POWER/Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is on his way to a Sonoma IZOD IndyCar Triple Crown, after turning the fastest lap in practice Friday. The Aussie has won the Sonoma race from the pole position the past two years, and led 144 or the last 150 laps run at the wine country road course. Last year he was the fastest ever IndyCar race winner at 1:47.29.7619/96.408 mph for the 75-lap race. This year the race will run an additional ten laps due to the new track configuration.
Technically, Power may have set a new IndyCar track record Friday on the newly configured 2.385-mile circuit, with a time of 0:18.6887/109.114 mph. The track was 2.303 miles last year before the recent changes to Turns Seven, Nine and Eleven. Power’s pole time in 2011 was 1:18.6017/105.479 mph, and 1:16.5282/108.337 mph in 2010.
Power said the car felt really strong, being up front at the start of Sunday’s race was very important and he liked the new track layout. “The hardest part was dealing with the wind.” His wind observations were echoed by other drivers, and for the most part, rendered last Friday’s test setups not so helpful.
Power’s teammate, RYAN BRISCOE/Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, was second fastest at 1:18.8782/108.851 mph. He said he was feeling good, is running a fresh Chevrolet engine and he was feeling good. About the track, he said “It’s definitely a driver’s track.
Last year Team Penske swept the podium for the race, with all three starting 1-2-3 and finishing with Power first, Briscoe third, and HELIO CASTRONEVES second.
Third through fifth Friday afternoon were Rookie SIMON PAGENAUD/Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda, current IndyCar champion DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and RUBENS BARRICHELLO/BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.
Other drivers who led before Power were Pagenaud, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet, Briscoe, Bourdais again, and then Power.
The weather was warm at 71 degrees F and breezy. Humidity was 56 percent, and the track was 115 degrees F. All 27 drivers were on track. There were two Red Flag situations, each single car driver spins with no injuries.
CHARLIE KIMBALL/NovoLog Flex Pen Honda spun off track on his sixth lap, causing a Red Flag lasting more than 11 minutes. “It’s obviously disappointing to start off practice like that. I overestimated the track grip a little bit and spun off and we weren’t able to get back out today.” He was listed as twenty-fifth overall.
The other red flag was caused by Rookie JOSEF NEWGARDEN/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda spinning off on Turn Seven’s exit. He restarted with help and pitted. He turned 22 laps and was eighteenth fastest.
Several drivers were hit with drive-through penalties for using the Pit Entry as part of the racing surface: MIKE CONWAY/ABC Supply Co/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, GRAHAM RAHAL/Service Central Honda, ORIOL SERVIA/Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, and SIMONA de SILVESTRO/Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus.
The IndyCars practice again Saturday morning at 10:50am local time/1:50pm ET. Qualifying begins at 2pm local time/5pm ET.