SONOMA, Calif. (August 23, 2014) -- Team Penske’s top two championship contenders put themselves in position to continue their duel for the title by qualifying in the first three rows for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway.
Will Power, who leads the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers’ standings, won the Verizon P1 Pole Award for Sunday’s race to add an all-important bonus point to his total. He now leads teammate Helio Castroneves, who qualified sixth on Saturday, by 40 points with just two races remaining in the 2014 season.
Power was clocked at 1:17.4126 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet around the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course. It marked the fourth pole of the season and 37th of his career.
“To put the Verizon Chevy up front to start tomorrow, it puts us in a good position,” said Power. “If it’s a normal sort of strategy we’ve put ourselves in a great position to win the race, but you know how these races go. You’ve got to get everything right on race day and we’re going to try and do that.”
Castroneves had posted the second-fastest lap, but it was disallowed when he went off track briefly, effectively short-cutting the course. He settled for a sixth-place start after a lap of 1:18.8771 in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.
“Unfortunately I got a little off course with the Hitachi Chevrolet and that really hurt our qualifying position,” stated Castroneves, the 2008 winner at Sonoma. “We could’ve challenged for a front row starting spot, but to make the Firestone Fast Six puts us in a good position for Sunday. We have a fast car and I have a great strategist in Roger Penske on my timing stand that will put me in great positions.”
Juan Pablo Montoya will start 19th on Sunday after he saw his fastest qualifying lap taken off the board. Montoya’s best lap in the first qualifying session was disallowed when INDYCAR officials ruled that he drove over the yellow line dividing pit entry from the course in Turn 11. Instead, his next-fastest lap – 1:18:8102 seconds -- put him 19th on the starting grid.
“I can’t say that I 100% agree with the call, but the rules are pretty clear,” said Montoya, the 2007 NASCAR Cup Series winner at the picturesque circuit. “We struggled a bit with the No. 2 Verizon Chevy all day, but we were fast enough to make it into the second round of qualifying. We are going to have to be creative on our strategy tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Fresh from his first career win at the historic Milwaukee Mile last weekend, Power put himself in a good position to try and win at Sonoma for the fourth time in five years. Just 33, Power already is 18th on the all-time victory list in IndyCar history with 24.
“I’m really proud of the guys on the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team in how they are approaching these last few races,” continued Power, who scored his fourth career pole at Sonoma. “We are staying aggressive and that’s what has us in the position to win the championship. It’s been a great run so far and I hope we can continue that tomorrow.”?
A 30-minute warmup session will be held Sunday at 1:00 pm ET before the green flag start of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at 4:40 p.m. ET. The NBC Sports Network live broadcast begins at 4 p.m.
The season concludes on Saturday night, Aug. 30, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.