SONOMA, Calif. - Will Power has stressed a one-race-at-a-time approach to the IZOD IndyCar Series championship as the 2012 season winds down. Earning the pole for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma for the third consecutive year is certainly a less stressful starting point.

Power, who has won the past two races at Sonoma from the pole, set an IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying record for the 2.385-mile, 12-turn layout with a lap of 1 minute, 17.2709 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six on Brasil IT+ Pole Day.

He takes a six-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the championship chase into the 85-lap race Aug. 26.

"It is important to start up front here," Power said. "I just really like this track and I would love to make it three in a row. The whole team has worked hard all year and we'll just continue to push to win the championship. With the (modifications to the road course) expect a lot of passing. Hopefully not of me. I don't want to let anyone by us."

Hunter-Reay was the only driver of the top four in the standings not to qualify for the 10-minute shootout, missing out on bumping Dario Franchitti by 0.0169 of a second in Round 2. Hunter-Reay will start seventh.

Ryan Briscoe, who has three podium finishes in six races at Sonoma and has started in the top five the past five years, also will start on the front row after a best lap of 1:17.4347 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske car. Team Penske swept the podium last year, with Helio Castroneves the race runner-up. He'll start the 85-lap race from the outside of Row 2.

Sebastien Bourdais earned his second consecutive Firestone Fast Six appearance and will start a season-high third in the No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing entry. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Franchitti will share Row 3.

In other racing action on Saturday, Alex Figge (K-Pax Racing Volvo) and Andy Lee (Best IT Chevrolet Camaro) posted victories in the GT and GTS classes, respectively, in the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma World Challenge main event.  The race marked the end of the racing season for the series, with Johnny O'Connell (Cadillac, GT) and Ray Cunningham (Acura, GTS) taking the championships.


Simon Pagenaud will be starting his second IndyCar race at Sonoma. He was a last-minute substitute for Simona de Silvestro in 2011 on a course he enjoys.

"Driving an IndyCar around Sonoma is just like riding a rollercoaster," he said. "The difference is I get sick on rollercoasters. I'm glad I'm not sick in the race car, and it's probably because I'm in control of my HP car. When you're going through Sonoma's Turn 1 and then up the hill, it is just like a rollercoaster. It's a really fun racetrack, but it can be stressful at the top of the hills because you don't know what's up there. It requires you to anticipate."


IZOD IndyCar Series driver JR Hildebrand got a new perspective on the raceway in Sonoma's new layout, taking a ride-along with Johnny O'Connell in Cadillac CTS-V Coupe following practice on Friday.

JR HILDEBRAND: "I've always loved the Cadillac CTS-V, and I did a road test here last year. I've been hooked ever since. It's a real treat to hop in with the man, the myth, the legend [Johnny O'Connell] to really see what it's all about. I was really impressed. It's got a butt-load of grip and it is really impressive. The way the car handles and how stable it is for being as big as it is is really impressive. It's obviously got a great tire underneath it and he was pushing pretty hard. He did a great job. I'd definitely come back for more."


IZOD IndyCar Series officials announced 10 grid spot penalties for the following cars for this weekend's event at the raceway at Sonoma: #15 Sato (will be using sixth engine at Sonoma); #17 Saavedra (unapproved engine change at Indianapolis); #18 Wilson (unapproved engine change between Mid-Ohio and Sonoma); #78 De Silvestro (using seventh engine at Sonoma).


Ben Flajnik, star of season 16 of ABC's reality series "The Bachelor" was at the track today as a guest of Arie Luyendyk Jr. Flajnik, who is a native of Sonoma, rode in the INDYCAR two-seater driven by Luyendyk, who was a finalist in the last season of "The Bachelorette."


Tyler Clary's long-term goal is to race on land.

So receiving a guided tour of the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing garage from IZOD IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden whetted the ambitions of the London Olympics swimming gold medalist.

Clary is among the Olympic medalists and California residents attending the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend. Also attending is two-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Erin Cafaro and swimmer Dana Vollmer.

The medalists will join grand marshal Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and former NBA star, in giving the command to start engines.

Clary, 23, of Riverside, Calif., has been to several races at Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana and attended the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. He plans to participate in the Skip Barber Racing School, which could put him on the Mazda Road to Indy through the Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy. He watched track activity from pit lane.

"I think it's awesome that in IndyCar versus other worldwide series that it's the same car and it's really drivers and teams that make the difference," said Clary, who met several other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. "It's interesting to see how the whole dynamic works. It's different from swimming in that you have to rely on your team and your equipment and then it's the driver to show what they really have. Everything is so interconnected I think it makes racing so much more rewarding.

"My passions are swimming and cars. It's in my blood. I love to swim fast and race cars fast."

Cafaro, a resident of Marin, Calif., entered the record book in London, along with her teammates, as the first female team in the history of USRowing to score back-to-back Olympic gold medals. They are also seven-time world champions and undefeated since 2006.

Vollmer, who along with Carafo are Cal graduates (as is the Raceway at Sonoma president and general manager Steve Page), set the world record on her way to winning the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly and won gold in the 4x100-meter medley relay and 4x200-meter freestyle relay in London. She won her first gold medal at the 2004 Games.


The official track length for the 12-turn raceway at Sonoma has been measured at 2.385 miles by INDYCAR Timing & Scoring, which corresponds to the on-board telemetry from cars using the racing line.