Castroneves and Power Clock Top-3 Speeds at Sonoma

August 23, 2013

SONOMA, Calif. (August 23, 2013) – Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power both recorded strong times in the afternoon practice session Friday at Sonoma Raceway. The drivers recorded top-three times as they continued preparations for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at the 2.385-mile wine country road course.   

Castroneves, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader, recorded a fast time of 1:18.6694 (109.140 mph) in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, good for the second-fastest lap of the day behind his title rival Scott Dixon.

Power, a two-time winner at Sonoma, posted a top lap of 1:18.7454 (109.035 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet late in the afternoon session as he finished third on the timing chart.

Castroneves, the 2008 winner at Sonoma, enters the weekend with a 31-point lead over Dixon in the series standings with just five races remaining in the 2013 season.

“The car seems in pretty good shape,” said Castroneves. “Certainly we just continued developing the setup of the Hitachi car during the day, and it seems like we were going in the right direction. But again, the track changed so much that you never know, but we (were) just focusing on our thing.”

Power has won the last three pole positions at Sonoma and won the race in 2010 and 2011 before finishing second last season. Team Penske has won the Sonoma race three consecutive times and four of the last five years.

“We definitely were improved in the afternoon session and it was good to put up a fast time in the Verizon car,” said Power, who enters the weekend ranked 11th in the series standings. “We still have a bit of work to do to get ready for qualifying but I think we’re getting closer. It was a good job by the Verizon guys today and hopefully we continue to improve on Saturday.”

Castroneves is the only driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series to complete every lap this season – 1,843 total – and has finished among the top 10 in 13 of the 14 races this season, including a nine-race streak since the Indianapolis 500 in May. The three-time Indy 500 champ said his Firestone tires went off quickly during the his time on the low-grip track on Friday.

“Chevy and our tire partner seem to be working together, especially on this track, because (the tires) degrade quite a lot,” said Castroneves. “We are going to see some interesting things in this race.”

Following a 45-minute practice session Saturday, Team Penske will compete for the pole position when qualifying begins at 5:30 p.m. ET (tape-delayed on NBC Sports at 9 pm ET Saturday). Coverage of Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

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