Power and Briscoe Lead Opening Practice at Sonoma

August 24, 2012

SONOMA, Calif. (August 24, 2012) – Team Penske got off to a strong start at the newly-configured Sonoma Raceway Friday afternoon, with Will Power and Ryan Briscoe clocking the top two laps of the first practice session in preparation for Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Power, who has won the last two IndyCar races at the Northern California road course, paced the 27-car field with a best lap of 78.6887 seconds. Power will attempt to win his third consecutive Sonoma pole position in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet during Saturday’s qualifying session.

“The Verizon Chevy 12 car felt really strong today,” said Power, who currently leads the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship standings by 63 points. “It was good to start the weekend out in P1. It will be very important to start up front in the race if you want to finish on the podium. I like the new layout of the track and the track was fast for the first day.”

Briscoe’s lap of 78.8782 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet was the second-best of the day around the 12-turn, 2.31-mile road course. The 2005 pole winner at Sonoma, Briscoe has an average starting position of third in six career races at Sonoma.  

“We were able to learn a lot last week in testing (at Sonoma), which showed in how strong the No. 2 Hitachi car ran today,” said Briscoe. “We still have some adjustments that need to be made leading into the race but I’m confident that we are on the right track heading into qualifying. We have a fresh Chevrolet engine in the No. 2 car this weekend that’s feeling good, and I’m feeling good. We definitely want to win, so we’ll see what we can do.”

Helio Castroneves was clocked at 79.9620 in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet, placing him 16th-best for the session.

“The Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job again, but the result wasn’t the one we expected,” said Castroneves, who won from the pole at Sonoma in 2008. “We had such a great test here, but somehow our setup is very different than what we had. I know the conditions changed, but certainly through my teammates I can see that we can do much better. The good news is we have tomorrow to find out what happened and execute.”

Team Penske swept the podium last year at Sonoma, as Power won, Castroneves finished second and Briscoe claimed third. Power enters this weekend leading the IZOD IndyCar Series standings, with Castroneves ranked third and Briscoe ninth. All three drivers are still in contention for the championship with three races remaining.

“We’ve had success here in the past, we took the top three spots in the race last year and 1-2 today,” said Power. “Team Penske definitely has had good success here in the past. We’ll look at our notes and try to go faster tomorrow. We’d really like a pole position to keep moving forward in the Championship race and we’ll see if we can do that tomorrow.”

Live television coverage of qualifying will begin Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. The race broadcast is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, also on NBC Sports Network.