Will Power delivered an astonishing track record breaking performance on black tires and held off a group of championship contenders on Saturday to take the pole for Sunday’s championship deciding Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma and make his somewhat long-shot title hopes seem a little bit brighter.
Power dazzled in group one when he set a new track record of 1:16.8789 on black tires. Once his Team Penske crew strapped the alternate reds to his #1 Verizon Chevrolet, his times only got faster and ended the first group on top with a lap of 1:16.5702.
Come group 2, Power was once again fast but saw competition from Ryan Hunter-Reay. Once the field came in for a fresh set of red tires, the battle resumed with Hunter-Reay first breaking Power’s record set just minutes earlier. Power soon responded with a lap of 1:16.5571 to round out the session as Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Juan Pablo Montoya followed.
The never-ending battle continued well into the pole determining Firestone Fast Six round as Power and RHR continued their battle for the first half of the ten minute session. As the clock wound down, Josef Newgarden pulled a rabbit out of his hat electing to go out on black tires and disposed of Power on his last lap with a lap time 1:16.3964, taking the track record in the process.
Newgarden’s time up front would last only around one minutes as Power crashed the party also on black tires with an even faster lap of 1:16.2597, his fourth new track record of the day and his fifth pole at Sonoma Raceway.
“I was just aware of the times that I had to beat and I didn’t know what the track record was,” said Power. “I just knew what Josef’s time was and needed to beat that. 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. If he had put them on at the end, I have a feeling he would have got the pole.”
Hunter-Reay ended the day in 3rd while Simon Pagenaud completes the second row. The top two in the standings: Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal ended the day on the third row with Montoya landing in fifth and Rahal flanking him in sixth.
Scott Dixon became the victim of bad luck as an errant car went off in turn six and scattered dust across the circuit which ruined any chance of making the Fast Six and ended up in ninth place.
Helio Castroneves suffered a similar fate as he did not advance into Q2 and will start tomorrow’s race from the 15th position.
Other notables included Sebastien Saavedra in 10th place and IndyCar returnee Mikhail Aleshin smoothly qualifying in 14th place. Oriol Servia, driving the #25 car in honor of Justin Wilson also had an uneventful session and ended the day in 19th place.