Will Power captured the final Verizon IndyCar Series pole of the season on Saturday, gaining a valuable point in the fight to defend his championship while also shattering the track record he set just a year ago.
Power’s lap time of 1:16.260 just as the Firestone Fast Six expired was well over the 1:17.239 mark he achieved during 2014 qualifying for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. It was Power’s sixth of the season – more than any other driver in the series – and a nice bookend to his campaign, as he was also the pole sitter for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“Newgarden went out and put a pretty good time up so we had no choice,” said Power, who went back out on sticker black Firestone tires as the session closed to capture the record-breaking time. “I’m very happy to end the year with a pole position.”
He had been the man to watch since posting the top time in Friday’s first practice session. Josef Newgarden will start second on Sunday, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay – who was fastest in second practice – and Simon Pagenaud. The top two championship contenders, Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal, will begin alongside each other in fifth and sixth.
Montoya struggled all day, barely scraping by in each of the first two rounds of qualifying and needing his last lap Saturday to push past Rahal on the grid. But at least he made it into the top six; Scott Dixon failed to transfer after dirt on the track hampered his second-round lap time and will start ninth, while Helio Castroneves didn’t even make it out of the first round.
“I don’t know who was ahead of us,” Dixon told reporters after, estimating that he lost somewhere between four-tenths and five-tenths of a second due to the track conditions. “Someone had gone right through the dirt and I got in there.”
Competition in the season finale is expected to be fierce even without the championship implications, as several drivers passed Power’s 2014 track record on Saturday and teams were concerned with the quick degradation of the softer Firestone red tires. Power still needs a victory Sunday if he wants to be the first repeat IndyCar champion since Dario Franchitti, but with the speed he just posted, it’s well within reach.
The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma takes place Sunday, August 30 at 1 PM PT/4 PM ET. The race will be televised on NBCSN. For a full schedule and driver preview, click here.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.