Will Power Fastest in Friday Practice at GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Three of the six Verizon IndyCar Series championship contenders were among the top five on the lap time chart in the initial practice session for the title-deciding GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Friday.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power's year-old Sonoma Raceway track record of 1 minute, 17.2393 seconds, set in qualifications on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course, will be challenged in the three rounds of qualifying on Saturday.
Power, who is fourth in the standings, recorded the quickest lap of 1:17.4858 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Graham Rahal, who is 34 points behind championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya entering the season finale, was .1326 of a second off the lead in the No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
"We're in a good window," said Power, who has won three times and was second in the past five years at Sonoma Raceway. "I think it will be an exciting race."
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three races in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, was third (1:17.6423), and three-time series champion Scott Dixon was fourth (1:17.7937) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Dixon is 47 points behind Montoya.
Montoya, driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, carries a 34-point advantage over Rahal into the 85-lap race Aug. 30 that features double base points in addition to four bonus points available for earning the Verizon P1 Award (one point) in the three rounds of qualifying, leading a lap (one point) and leading the most race laps (two points).
He recorded a best lap of 1:18.0901 in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for ninth quickest in the session. Four different teams were represented in the top five, and the top 10 were separated by six-tenths of a second.
"I think we've been doing everything we need to put ourselves in this position," said Montoya, who has stood atop the standings since winning the opener March 29 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., to start his second Indy car season after a 13-year absence.
"It's been a very cool year. We had our struggles last year. We won a race and everything, but we struggled most of the year. So we did a little work over the winter to get where we needed to be. We've been really good all year."
Helio Castroneves, who was seventh on the lap time chart, and Josef Newgarden, who posted the 13th-quickest lap time, also are eligible for the title.
"Whatever is going to happen is going to happen with double points," Montoya added.
Tickets are still available for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, and kids 12 and under are admitted free all weekend. In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series, the weekend also features the Formula Car Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge Series. For more information, visit www.racesonoma.com or call 800-870-RACE (7223).