Leading up to the final Fast Six qualifying run for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, there was drama in the first three runs.
In the first of the two Qualifying Groups for Round One, Josef Newgarden No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing prevailed with a lap of 1:17.7653. The top three drivers made the 1:17′s – Ryan Briscoe No.8 UFD, and Helio Castroneves No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Fourth through sixth were Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Rookies Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Andretti Autosport Honda and Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda.
JPM shortcut the track and lost his fastest lap, so he missed the cut in Group One. He didn’t feel he actually did a shortcut – going over the line exiting, so Montoya rode posthaste on his scooter to Race Control. “It was very IndyCar-like. I’m not over the line, they say I’m over. There was no advantage, and they don’t always see it.” IndyCar made no adjustment in any of the qualifying times.
Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda had brake problems in Group One which kept him from the pole many favored him to win.
In Group Two of Round One, the times were faster. Power led twice, in two runs, turning a 1:17.2393, and broke his (2012) existing track record of 1:17.2709. All six drivers ran in the 17′s, and the top four were faster than Newgarden’s top time in Group One.
Round Two of IndyCar qualifying saw Newgarden fastest, with a time of 1:17.2851, not as fast as Power’s qualifying record. Also making the cut were Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Power, and Briscoe.
Most drivers ran one hot lap, pitted and swapped for option red tires.
Castroneves drove wide and off-course on his first out lap, which negated that lap and the next one, as penalty.
The third run, Group Three for the top six from each of the first two groups saw Newgarden, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Power and Briscoe advance to the final showdown – the Firestone Fast Six.
Power gambled and won by turning his pole-sitting lap on his first run. This was his fourth Verizon P1 Award this season, and back to back from last week’s pole on the Milwaukee oval. This makes 36 career poles, making him sixth on the all-time pole award list.
Second was Newgarden – matching his best-ever qualifying runs at Texas and Mid-Ohio. Dixon was third, his fifth top-five this season. Fourth through sixth were Hinchcliffe, Briscoe and Castroneves.
This weekend IndyCar TV broadcaster Jon Beekhuis will be in Race Control as a Race Steward. This is part of IndyCar’s new 2014 program to include a Race Steward as part of the ‘independent steward’ triumvirate comprised of IndyCar Race Director, Beaux Barfield, and IndyCar Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart. When warranted, these three adjudicate competitor on-track sporting infractions.
Aleshin and Marco Andretti No.27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda had an incident in Group One, which went to Steward’s Review. The young Russian had led briefly during the session, but ended up sixth, while Andretti missed the cut in P7. Upon review, the Stewards took no action.
Beekhuis will also be in Race Control for the MAVTV 500 season’s finale at Auto Club Speedway next weekend.
Derrick Walker, IndyCar Director of Competition, said the program will be expanded next season, with IndyCar Series competitors able to nominate drivers and independent stewards. They will be ‘drilled on sporting rules and regulations, and have no affiliation with any of the competitors.’
The NBCSN TV broadcasters this weekend are Brian Till as host, with Paul Tracy and Sam Hornish Jr also in the booth. Pit Reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Robin Miller.
Before qualifying, Will Power was asked what was it about the track that made him so good at Sonoma. He said “We’ll see after qualifying how good I am/how good the track is for me.
“It’s a very technical track, very difficult to drive. I’ve definitely had good runs here for sure in the race, for whatever reason. Sometimes I’m on pace, and last year I had good restarts.
Power starts on the pole for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, aired live on NBCSN at 1 pm PDT/4 pm EDT.