SONOMA, California (August 27, 2011) – Will Power led a Team Penske qualifying sweep on Saturday afternoon at Infineon Raceway as he earned his series-leading sixth pole of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Power recorded a top lap of 1:18.6017 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda during the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session and he will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The effort represented the second consecutive pole at the 2.3-mile wine country road course for Power, who also won last season’s race at the venue. Saturday’s qualifying also represented Team Penske’s first 1-2-3 qualifying result of the season and its first since it took the top three starting spots at Motegi, Japan last season. Helio Castroneves qualified second in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske machine as he clocked a top time of 1:19.0916. Ryan Briscoe made it a Team Penske sweep as he qualified in the third position after posting a lap of 1:19.1112 in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda.
For Power, the pole is extra special because it comes at a track where he suffered a season-ending injury after a practice crash in 2009 and he made a triumphant return to Infineon Raceway in 2010 as he was crowned Mario Andretti Road Course Champion after he led the most laps and claimed victory from the pole position. With the point earned for the pole, Power now trails Dario Franchitti by just 46 points in the race for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
“This qualifying session was as perfect as it could go,” said Power, who was second in practice on Friday and third in Saturday’s morning’s practice session. “We were a little concerned after practice and didn’t know if we had the pace or not, but we made some good changes before qualifying. We were able to put a perfect lap together that was mistake free and hit all of the sectors and that was the key to posting the quickest lap. I am very happy with the efforts of Verizon Team Penske and having all three Team Penske cars up top today was really indicative of the work we have done. We were struggling a little bit on road courses so we have worked hard on improving the car and this is a result of the hard work.”
After the Guidepoint Systems car went off course in the second round of qualifying, Castroneves made a strong recovery in the Fast Six final round by tying his season-best qualifying result.
“Wow, I’m so happy to be starting on the front row in our Guidepoint Systems car,” said Castroneves, who won from the pole at Infineon in 2008. “It has been awhile since I’ve started up front and here and it feels awesome. It is a great result for Team Penske to start 1-2-3. I have to thank all my guys for all their hard work and thank everyone for sticking with me through what has been a difficult season. Now, tomorrow we just have to go out there and finish the job and bring home a strong result for the team.”
After battling a brake problem in practice on Friday, Briscoe turned in a strong result on Saturday as he earned his fifth top-five qualifying result of the season.
“It was an awesome day, with the Penske Truck Rental car getting a top-three starting spot and for Team Penske to go 1-2-3 in qualifying,” said Briscoe, who will be looking for his fourth consecutive top-four finish at Sonoma on Sunday. “It’s great to see all the preparation and hard work by the team pay off. I’m really happy for all the engineers and the mechanics because they deserve this. Hopefully we can execute in the same way tomorrow and have another big day for the team.”
Sunday’s 75-lap Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will get the green flag at 4:45 p.m. ET with live coverage beginning at 4 p.m. on VERSUS.